Growing pains: LIVE Conference stirs dialogue on senior mobility

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Nancy Feichtl, center, facilitating founder of iTNSouthernDelaware, shares information on the volunteer/technology based program geared to provide transportation for senior citizens.

GEORGETOWN – Sussex County’s population is experiencing growing pains – particularly among senior citizens and the “baby boomer” generation.

Transportation, mobility for those who no longer have wheels but yearn to live independently, current resources and potential solutions were the focus of discussion at the Oct. 21 LIVE Conference held at the CHEER Community Center.

A University of Delaware study shows Sussex County’s coastal region is a retirement haven, with upward of one in two residents of senior age, 65 and up. It’s 44 percent in the Lewes/Rehoboth area and over 50 percent in Ocean View.

Countywide, Sussex’s senior percentage is 30, well above the 18-percent national average.

“We are probably the oldest county in the nation,” said Nancy Feichtl, founder/facilitator of iTNSouthernDelaware that was highlighted at the conference. “It’s only to get worse because the big surge of baby boomers is currently people that are 61 to 64. That was the big boom in baby boomers. They haven’t reached 65 yet. So we are really going to be overwhelmed.”

To a “Transportation: Moving Forward” theme, conference speakers included Jill Rogers (state Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities), Julia O’Hanlon (University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration), Rex Knowlton (former president of Community Transportation Association of America), Bonnie Hitch (DART First State), Santo Grande (Delmarva Community Services), Ms. Feichtl and Scott Bogren, Director of Communications for Community Transportation Association of America.

UBER, public transportation including DART and its new Flex Service are solutions.

So is ITNSouthernDelaware – an affiliate of ITNAmerica which banks on volunteerism and technology in providing relatively inexpensive transportation for seniors that is gearing to soon launch in the beach area.

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Scott Bogren, Director of Communications for Community Transportation Association of America, addresses the LIVE Conference audience.

“I don’t think there is anything more important than the kinds of outcomes that those systems create in allowing people to be independent and allowing people to be healthier, and live their lives the way they choose to as opposed to being forced because of isolation and lack of transportation to live lesser lives. That’s really what we are about,” said Mr. Bogren.

“We are fortunate that we are not starting from scratch,” said Ms. Rogers. “While the challenges that we face are not unique to Delaware our ability and our willingness to come together as we do today, create and develop solutions is truly unique.”

Panel discussion targeted land use and development and how it factors in the mobility/isolation equation.

“That is real concern,” said CHEER Deputy Director Ken Bock, moderator for one panel discussion. “I think we are seeing challenges to the way that development is occurring and how that might be making it more difficult in order to be connected to people’s residences where they want to live with the services that are so important and vital to remain independent in their communities.”

Residential communities are popping up in rural areas, well off the beaten path for access to public transportation. All stakeholders – developers and local, county and state entities – all need to be on the same page, panelists concurred.

“It is important that one hand knows what the other hand is doing,” said Mr. Knowlton.

“DART looking at how we can better service Sussex County,” said Ms. Hitch. “The population, the way it is spread out isn’t a good match for traditional fixed route services.”

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Sally Beaumont, former chairperson of Sussex County’s Advisory Committee on Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities, speaks with state Rep. Harvey Kenton and Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett at the LIVE Conference.

“We have land use policy here. We have transportation policy here and energy policy over here – and they don’t connect,” said Mr. Bogren. “It is a big frustration because if you want to achieve good land use you have to have good transportation policy. You do those properly and you can have good energy policy.”

“I think we are a point – a crossroad if you will where – where you have to realize you cannot talk about one thing without the other, whether it is transportation, social services, land use; they are all integrated.

Ms. O’Hanlon said there needs to be more communication “to achieve what I call a culture of mobility … moving people where they need to go and want to go and have the right to do so.”

iTNSouthernDelaware

iTNSouthernDelaware is gearing to launch, initially in the Lewes-Rehoboth area, with a lot of interest in Selbyville and Riverdale/Oak Orchard areas.

“Once we get a critical mass in area that is like one volunteer driver to four riders – 1 to 3 would be perfect – we will launch the ridership,” said Ms. Feichtl.

iTNSouthernDelaware is an affiliate of iTNAmerica, which has been in business for 20 years, is in 27 states has been recognized by Congress as the best aging in place program in the U.S., Ms. Feichtl said.

Membership is $35 annually and members are sought as drivers and riders.

As drivers, volunteers bank credits which they can use for free rides when they no longer drive.

Trips cost $1.25 per mile. “We will take you anywhere, 24/7,” said Ms. Feichtl.

iTNSouthernDelaware aims to provide dignified transportation for seniors. Its mission is “to provide a community-based, community-supported, economically viable and consumer-oriented, quality transportation service for seniors and adults with visual impairment.”

“This model is the ultimate meaning of volunteerism and technology,” said Ms. Feichtl.

For more information, visit www.itnsoutherndelaware.org.

DART Flex Service

As an added service in Sussex County, DART First State has new Flex bus routes that operate weekdays, every hour from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Flex routes are:

  • 901F Georgetown: loops around Georgetown connecting to Route 206 to Lewes and Rehoboth; Route 212 to Bridgeville, Seaford, Laurel and Delmar; Route 303 to Milford and Dover; and new 902F Flex Route to Millsboro;
  • 902F Georgetown-Millsboro: provides new service between Georgetown and Millsboro with the same connections listed in 901F; and
  • 903F Seaford: loops around Seaford with connections to Route 212.

For more information on Flex service, visit Dart First State’s website – www.dartfirststate.com/ – in “Spotlight.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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