Breaking Ground 97 - MyRide TN

by Gloria Huber, Partners in Policymaking 2017-18 Graduate

People who are age 60 and over have many needs, but in Tennessee, transportation is by far one of the greatest. Over the course of our lives, my husband and I have needed someone from time to time to provide transportation.  When the MyRide TN Southeast logo appeared in a local paper, it caught my attention.  As I read about the upcoming launch of a new transportation service in Bradley County, I knew that I wanted to be involved. 

The mission of MyRide TN is “to improve the quality of life for older adults by providing courteous and safe door-through-door volunteer transportation to those eligible for the service, enabling them to obtain essential services and maintain their independence, dignity, and quality of life.”

The program was first launched in West Tennessee, where it has seen great success.  The Bradley County initiative launched on October 15, 2018 and has completed 179 trips as of this writing. I attended the October kick-off session of MyRide TN Southeast and later applied to be a volunteer driver.

There were a couple of concerns for me as a driver. One was liability, which I found is covered first by my auto insurance and then by excess auto, medical and liability insurance for all volunteers (purchased by MyRide TN). Both state and federal volunteer protection laws offer another layer of safety. The other concern involved my own limitations that could prevent me from fully participating in this “door-through-door” service. I discovered that I can choose to accept a trip based on physical abilities and needs of the individual rider, and that drivers are not allowed to lift or carry if doing so could harm them or the rider. My concerns addressed, I felt it was safe to volunteer and began to accept trips.

Volunteer drivers are asked to commit three hours per month to drive an older adult on an essential trip within Bradley County. We are encouraged to donate more time, but it is not a requirement. To date, I have completed four trips that included stops at the grocery, Walmart, Target, the bank, and medical appointments. My riders have ranged from those with vision issues to those with the inability to drive due to advanced age, to those under temporary driving restrictions while recovering from surgery. Some riders used a rollator walker, while others were able to walk without an assistive device. All were people who live alone.  Our conversations between stops have enriched my life and, I hope, theirs. I’m truly enjoying this new experience.

The benefits of becoming a volunteer driver go beyond the satisfaction that comes from helping others. Drivers indicate their availability and only drive when it is convenient for them. We have a dedicated Transportation Coordinator who is employed by the Southeast TN Area Agency on Aging and Disability (SETAAAD). The Coordinator is committed to the success of the program, its volunteers, its riders, and provides support and technical assistance. We also have an opportunity to refresh our driving skills through the AARP SmartDriver Safety Course, either online or in class. MyRide TN will reimburse our cost of the course, and we may be eligible for a discount on our auto insurance. I’m currently enrolled in the online course and am not only refreshing safe driving knowledge, but also learning about technology that is now standard in newer cars.

I tell my friends about my experience with MyRide TN with the hope that they and their friends will consider volunteering. With the number of riders dependent upon the availability of drivers, volunteers are the very heart of the program.