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North American Conference on Elderly Mobility

Alternative Transportation, Mobility Management, and Coordination

Engaging Older Adults in Emergency Preparedness Planning

In the United States, more than 1,300 natural disasters occur each year. Many times, these disasters require implementing evacuation plans to facilitate the immediate and rapid movement of people away from the threat or actual occurrence of a hazard. These plans should detail the partnerships and agreements between transportation agencies and private companies that are in place to evacuate older and vulnerable populations.

Image shows seniors participating in an emergency planning meeting
Figure 21. Seniors Participating in Emergency Planning

The 2009 Red River flooding in North Dakota and Minnesota brought record flood levels to the Fargo–Moorhead area. The flood was a result of saturated and frozen ground, spring snowmelt, and additional rain and snow storms. Communities along the Red River prepared for more than a week as the U.S. National Weather Service continuously updated the predictions for the city of Fargo, North Dakota, with an increasingly higher projected river crest.

The 2009 Fargo flood led to the evacuation of all nursing homes and assisted living centers as well as the area's largest hospital. To execute such a large–scale evacuation, various transportation providers pooled resources. This was possible in large part due to the partnerships already in place to permit the use of community resources, such as school buses, during an evacuation. Once evacuated, disaster relief shelters had to be prepared to accommodate the special needs of the elderly and disadvantaged occupants; for example, individuals with mobility devices could not navigate between the beds if cots were placed too closely together. Shelters also had to coordinate their staffing plans to ensure there were personnel to provide extra assistance for older and disabled occupants.

When developing disaster plans, communities should engage older adults and people with disabilities (or their representatives) to obtain their input. This ensures that their needs are being considered and resources are designated to assist them during a disaster. One way to include older adults in disaster planning is to invite their participation during table top exercises. This provides an opportunity for them to give direct input on emergency operation procedures, policies, communication protocols, and shelter requirements. They can also provide input on appropriate staging locations during an evacuation, effective protocols for serving passengers on paratransit while evacuating, and helping individuals with assistive devices (e.g., wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen tanks).

Fargo's preparations for the disaster made it possible to evacuate early, when roads were still accessible and shelter staff and volunteers were available to assist. When communities are able to provide advance notice to their residents, it creates a window of opportunity for briefings and early communication with both staff at shelters as well as the public. However, successful disaster preparedness relies heavily on existing plans, procedures, experience, and training when advance notice is not possible.

Image shows emergency personnel evacuating seniors during a flood
Figure 22. Emergency Personnel Evacuating Seniors

For additional information:

Agency: National Center on Senior Transportation
Contact: Carol Wright, Co–Director
Telephone: 202–403–8365
Email: cwright@easterseals.com

It Takes a Village: Transportation Options

The Village model was born from the need for reliable, affordable, and readily available services to support the aging population in the community. Villages are non–profit, grass–roots organizations, offering services and programs catered towards their specific members' demographic. They are membership–driven, usually requiring a recurring fee that is much less than a conventional retirement home. This allows the Village to maintain some permanent staff who, along with administrative volunteers, provide health and wellness services for older adult members and provide a transportation service that reflects the needs of the Village members and the characteristics of the surrounding community. The Village administration also organizes social events, trips, and even home repairs—whatever the members request. Transportation is the most requested service that Villages provide to their members.

The high yearly cost of retirement communities is one of the major reasons why many older adults decide to live at home as long as possible. Older adults' hope to remain connected with their communities and their goal of maintaining their overall independence are two other factors that contribute to the desire to stay at home. The Village model provides an alternative to moving to a retirement community and can allow older adults the choice to age in their own homes. A Village can provide the services, connections, and care expected from retirement communities while still allowing Village members to remain independent by living at home in their familiar surroundings.

Potential members sign up to be included in their local Village typically by going to the Village offices and learning details about the organization, signing whatever forms may be required, and paying the membership fee. The Village provides members with transportation and other services using existing assets and resources found in the community such as volunteer drivers, discounted shared ride services, or discounted senior taxis. The exact methods used to provide transportation services vary from Village to Village and depend on a number of factors, such as:

The overall goal is for the Village to work with the member to identify the types and methods of transportation that best fits the needs of the individual member.

The Village model was conceived in 2001 by Beacon Hill residents in Boston, Massachusetts. The Village to Village Network, a joint partnership between the Beacon Hill Village and Capital Impact Partners, a nationwide non–profit focused on community development, connects each Village through this peer to peer network, providing them with a platform to share ideas with other Villages to strengthen and sustain their organizations. According to the Village to Village Network, "145 Villages are operating across the country, in Canada, Australia and the Netherlands." 10

Using the Village model to provide transportation for seniors is something that could easily be replicated elsewhere. In fact, currently there are "over a 100 additional Villages in development," according to the Village to Village Network. No two Villages are identical, but the use of the Village model will effectively serve the members of any Village. The following two Village examples show how the Village model allows a Village to provide transportation service to its members despite drastic differences:

Monadnock at Home is a Village located in rural New Hampshire that spans almost 400 square miles. For members of this Village, one's neighbors may not be in sight; grocery stores may be more than 30 miles away; and long, cold winters can leave individuals isolated at home for long periods of time. The Village coordinates transportation for members wherever they live (within a reasonable boundary that includes eight neighboring towns). They partner with the local Red Cross and a local transportation company, coordinating volunteer drivers for themselves and their organizational partners in exchange for route planning skills provided by the two partner organizations. This system of coordination among volunteer drivers provides an invaluable service in such a rural setting.

The Capitol Hill Village in Washington, D.C. provides transportation for its members using approximately 70 volunteer drivers who respond to email or phone request for rides anywhere within or around the Nation's capital. In addition, the Village coordinates ridesharing to Village events. The urban setting of this Village allows for direct communication between the Village administration, members, and volunteer drivers.

Image shows a map of the United States with showing the number of Village communities for each state
Figure 23. Current number of Village communities across the nation as of August 2014
Source: Village to Village Network, LLC

This is the beauty of the Village model. Although these two locations are very different, they each have a solution that suits their specific needs. With service of the members as their guiding mission, the Village inevitably chooses the best options for the members, relying heavily on members' feedback and stated needs in order to find the best solution. With that model in place, the most likely outcome is that members will be paired with transportation services that best meet their individual needs.

For additional information:

Agency: Capitol Hill Village
Contact: Julie Maggioncalda, Director of Volunteers and Social Services
Telephone: 202–543–1778M
Email: jmaggioncalda@capitolhillvillage.org

Agency: Monadnock at Home
Contact: Frank Harnden, Chair, Board of Directors
Telephone: 603–878–1010
Email: chair@monadnockathome.org

Agency: Capital Impact Partners
Contact: Candace Baldwin, Director of Strategy for Aging in Community
Telephone: 617–299–9638
Email: cbaldwin@capitalimpact.org or candace@vtvnetwork.org


10Village to Village Network. Accessed November 17, 2014. http://www.vtvnetwork.org/

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