The senior population in Delaware continues to grow as Delaware baby boomers begin to reach retirement age and seniors from surrounding states move to the first state at an increasing rate to enoy the low cost of living. With growth of the senior population comes the growing demand for more services for the age group on a scale that lawmakers have not seen before. Chief among these demands is transportation, especially in the two lower counties of Delaware, Kent and Sussex.
According to a research analysis presented to the Delaware General Assembly in 2013 by the Institute for Public Administration at University of Delaware, Delaware is currently experiencing unprecedented growth in the demand for transportation services for senior citizens. With one of the fastest growing senior populations in the country, the analysis aimed to set recommendations that would start addressing the lack of transportation services.
“Population forecasts for Delaware continue to predict there will be steady growth in the senior citizen segment of the population,” stated the report among its Conclusions and Recommendations section. “As people age, their ability to drive decreases and they begin to depend on alternative method of transportation to participate in routine activities like appointments, grocery shopping, and social functions.”
Although the research analysis focuses its recommendations on how the State of Delaware can improve transportation to a growing senior population, one non-profit organization known as Independent Transportation Network (ITN) America is beginning to gain some traction in the debate over how those demands can be met. With 6,500 members throughout 25 states across the nation, the organization hopes to extend its reach into Delaware, forming what will eventually be called ITN Southern Delaware.
Local activist Nancy Feicht is spearheading a campaign to raise money to create ITN Southern Delaware cooperative that will allow seniors to take advantage of transportation in a private car to doctors’ appointments, grocery store and entertainment. If instituted, each member would pay an annual $25 membership and set up an account that will cover travel costs, about $1 per mile. According to Feicht, some of the advantages for the cooperative include less time lost by adult family members and care givers by added transportation needs on the family and the program’s ability to easily cross county and state lines unlike some other State services. The program will include volunteer drivers, a few paid drivers and possibly some engagement with local taxis.
Feicht learned the importance of needing more time for transportation when her own parents retired in Sussex County. “If my parents needed help I was there for them but I saw so many of us getting older where there was no support,” stated Feicht. She acknowledged that since her own children have moved to San Francisco, CA this cooperative would be very useful for her as she continues her retirement. “Even if you are not a senior yourself, ITN Southern Delaware can help you provide safety for a senior you know.”
Speaking with government bodies, non-profit organizations and retirement facilities in Kent and Sussex Counties, Feicht is now helping to raise the $200,000 needed to become a part of the national ITN America organization. Setting a goal of $120,000 before the organization will accept members, Feicht has already raised $40,000 for the program. During the first years of the program, Feicht projects that ITN Southern Delaware can provide over 44,000 trips per year. As seniors that need transportation pay into the program, seniors that can drive have the opportunity to become a volunteer driver and add mileage credits onto their account for later use.
Continuing her efforts to raise money for the formation of the cooperative, Feicht is asking that local organizations that want to address the problem of transportation for seniors in Kent and Sussex Counties, contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is interested in sharing the ITN Southern Delaware model with groups, clubs and organizations across lower Delaware.
“The bottom line is that we need to have $120,000 to start the organization, which is $2 for each senior in Sussex County.” Individuals interested in making a contribution to ITN Southern Delaware can send a check to the Delaware Community Foundation, c/o Sussex Senior Transportation Cooperative, to 36 The Circle, Georgetown, DE 19947.