JFS Promotes Older Driver Safety Awareness Week Dec. 1-7 and Kibbitz & Ride Volunteer-Based Senior Transportation Program

While South Florida may be well known for its thriving senior population, far less recognized are the rising service levels needed to sustain and support these residents who need help as they continue to age. One of the biggest hurdles for many South Palm Beach County seniors is affordable transportation, a concern that keeps growing as more people aging in place become unable to drive. This gap was a major finding of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County’s Senior Services Study, and other sources point to the particular concern in this community.* And the shortfall in services is expected to worsen as Baby Boomers enter their senior years.

That’s why Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service (JFS) is promoting Older Driver Safety Awareness Week from December 1-7, 2013 to residents of South Palm Beach County. The first week of December has been designated to promote the importance of older driver safety and mobility that helps ensure older adults remain active within their communities.

“As a provider of a wide range of senior services, we at JFS are all too aware of the consequences of lack of senior transportation, our agency has been helping sustain seniors’ independence and preventing their isolation through our innovative volunteer-based Kibbitz & Ride program since 1999,” said Danielle Hartman, JFS President & CEO.

Through Kibbitz & Ride, JFS brings together volunteer drivers with seniors who must have help getting to medical appointments, food shopping, and other errands. In a very rewarding volunteer experience, the drivers’ time with clients also provides companionship and conversation - and the driver may be the only person an isolated client will see that day. Drivers receive background checks as well as initial and ongoing training. They spend a varying number of hours per month driving, and have the opportunity to be reimbursed for mileage.

“The program continues to grow, but more volunteers are needed to enable our older neighbors to stop driving when they are no longer able to safely operate a vehicle, yet continue to make essential trips,” said Hartman. “In 2012, Kibbitz & Ride provided 2,700 rides, an increase of 14%. More than 60% of the rides were to medical and rehabilitative appointments.”

Doreen Fishkin was one of the first volunteers to sign up for the Kibbitz and Ride volunteer driver program when it started in March, 1999. When her mother was alive, Doreen would drive her everywhere. “I like to think that I’m doing the same for someone else’s mother,” she said. Doreen knows she makes a difference in the lives of agency clients. Without her, she knows, “They would be homebound.” Doreen has taken people to the supermarket, beauty parlor, flea market, bereavement groups and congregate meal programs. Every Monday, she drives a 96 year old client to the Diamond Club, a social club for those over the age of 75, so the client can continue her own volunteer work there.

Both community members interested in volunteering as well as seniors in need of transportation are invited to call (561) 852-3333.

Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service (JFS) offers help, hope and humanity through a comprehensive range of programs and services which support people of all ages and beliefs. With locations in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, JFS programs and services include food and financial assistance, senior services, counseling and mental health services and many volunteer opportunities. Funding is provided by private and corporate support, grants, special events and individuals who reach thousands in need each year. For more information about JFS volunteer opportunities and services for seniors, contact (561) 852-3333.

* Census data show that Palm Beach County’s 262,076 seniors represent not only the highest percentage of any US county of comparable size; they also represents an extraordinary percentage of older seniors (85+), disabled seniors, partial and fully homebound seniors, and low-income seniors, a majority of whom live alone. The Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has reported that the highest concentrations of the oldest seniors (80+) in Palm Beach County reside in the JFS service area, which is also home to the second highest number of households with no motor vehicles.

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