Ride assistance coming in April for Naperville seniors

 
 
Updated 3/18/2017 6:27 PM
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Seniors in Naperville soon will have a new transportation option when they're heading to a doctor's appointment.

Ride Assist Naperville, a nonprofit that grew from the city's senior task force, plans to provide rides to doctor's offices and hospitals for people 60 and older beginning in April.

The program already has a few volunteers vetted and trained and is seeking more willing drivers as it signs up riders for its first transports next month, said Karen Courney, co-chairwoman of the Naperville senior task force.

Courney said transportation was among the top concerns the task force identified when it formed in 2014 because existing ride assistance programs are not reaching all older residents who need a lift.

"I know there's a need out there," Courney said. "We're not trying to replace any of the other transportation systems out there; there's room for all of us."

Ride Assist Naperville service differs from Ride DuPage or senior taxi discount programs because it will be individual, says Mike Cooper, a Ride Assist Naperville board member and owner of the Naperville Senior Fitness and Activity Center.

A volunteer driver will pick up each rider, help him into the car and into the doctor's office, and wait until the appointment is completed. The driver then will take the rider to pick up prescriptions if necessary and then back home. There won't be any wasted time stopping at other people's destinations, waiting for other riders or waiting for a taxi to arrive.

"It's the only thing in DuPage County that provides this service, which is 'I'm going to wait for you,'" Cooper said.

The service will cost a $12 requested donation for each round trip. Riders must fill out an application to have their ability to pay evaluated and join the program. Potential riders can apply by calling (630) 864-3087 or visiting rideassistnaperville.org.

Rides will be available to medical and dental appointments, including physicals, pacemaker checks, blood tests, vision or hearing screenings, dialysis, X-rays, wound care, physical therapy and chemotherapy. Appointments not covered include surgeries or any procedures for which anesthesia is given.

Much of the service model for Ride Assist Naperville is based on the strategies used by Escorted Transportation Service Northwest, an Arlington Heights-based nonprofit that has been driving seniors to medical appointments for 10 years.

Last year, the service gave 2,712 rides to seniors with an average age of 85, said Ann Blanchard, executive director.

"When you're 85 and you no longer drive, it's hard to get to your doctors," Blanchard said. "We enable seniors to stay independent and in their homes."

To help seniors with low mobility, Ride Assist Naperville volunteers will be trained on how to transfer patients from wheelchairs to car seats and what to do if an emergency arises, which should comfort riders and their relatives.

"It will give them and their families peace of mind knowing their loved one is going to be able to get to their appointment without much distraction," Cooper said.

Ride Assist Naperville will serve residents who live in Naperville and unincorporated areas with Naperville mailing addresses.

Drivers will take clients to appointments in a zone roughly bordered by Eola Road on the west, Rodeo Drive, Plainfield/Naperville Road and Boughton Road on the south, Route 53 on the east and Butterfield Road on the North.

Outside of that area, drivers also will go to four nearby hospitals: Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Northwestern Medicine's Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora and Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital.

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