Thoughts and questions about transportation

Many of us require an automobile to get to those people, things and activities that provide our lives with “purpose”. This is especially true if you live in the suburbs. Over the years I have observed the tremendous emotional and life challenges that individuals face when they loose the ability to drive. For many of my fellow residents, this was a catalyst to move to a retirement community.

I decided not to take my car to the community during my stay. I didn’t even want to be tempted to leave the community on an errand or go for a drive. I immediately felt the “burden” of negotiating my rides to and from the community with my friends and family, which is something I rarely have to do.  On a daily basis I saw friends and family visiting and taking other residents to appointments and on errands. It’s important to note that several residents did have cars in the community.

Like my home, this community is in a suburban neighborhood and not right next door to amenities like a grocery store, coffee shop or restaurants. A few residents told me when the weather is nice they will walk about a mile on the sidewalk and paths to the local shopping mall.

I have always been a bit envious of the urban lifestyle or neighborhoods with close proximity to shopping, recreation and cultural amenities. If you never had to rely on your car to get to things that matter, then loosing the ability to drive doesn’t affect your independence or lifestyle as much. It’s no surprise that many “empty nesters” are making the move from the suburbs to cities and college towns with better proximity and transportation networks.

I received some great questions related to transportation from a reader:

“If you want to visit the nearest shopping area or town, what transportation arrangements will you have to make?”

There is a community bus that has regularly scheduled trips to local shopping and other locations. If I wanted to go somewhere off the schedule I would have to arrange a taxi, public transportation, another resident with a car, friend or family. I know that staff is very involved in making sure everyone gets where they want to be with the least amount of effort.

I know I haven’t mentioned staff much in my posts, but I would like to recognize the driver Nick. I heard the residents speaking fondly of Nick every single day.

If you didn’t know he was staff you would think he was the family of a particular resident he was helping or talking with. To see him in action was a beautiful sight, his caring and patience and making sure that we got where we needed to be was fantastic. I always saw Nick going above and beyond his duties of driving, he was all over the community helping out where needed.

“If you had wanted to stay longer in D.C. after you had visited the museum, what transportation was available for returning to the retirement community?”

This came up on two of my bus trips where I paired up with another resident. As we were enjoying the museum, my fellow neighbor suggested if we wanted to stay longer we could tell Nick and take a cab back. On the weekly bus trip to the mall I was shopping with another resident and it looked like we were cutting it close to get back to the bus. She said not to worry, we can take a cab. She participates in a Fairfax County program called Seniors on the Go that offers discounted taxi program, click here for link

“If friends without access to a car wanted to visit you, how can they get to the retirement community?”

I am sure that most communities might be helpful in helping make arrangements but my friend would probably have to rely on the same resources they use to get to the grocery store, doctors, etc.
Once again this experience has made me reflect on how much I rely on my automobile and how loosing my ability to drive at any age would impact my existing lifestyle.

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