Naperville senior ride service 'helps us get out'
Eudean Sovereign of Naperville stopped driving two years ago.
The 84-year-old has neuropathy in her right leg, making it unsafe for her to operate the gas and brake pedals, so she often depends on Pace buses to get around.
But during a recent senior exercise class, she heard about another transportation option she finds more personal and convenient.
"I'm very satisfied to have somebody to sit and wait for you and take you home," Sovereign said Friday, as a volunteer dropped her off for an appointment at the Women's Imaging Center at Edward Hospital. "A lot of us at this age can't drive for some reason. This helps us get out."
The service that gave Sovereign a .7-mile ride to her appointment is called Ride Assist Naperville. It's a program developed by a nonprofit organization called Naperville Seniors in Action, which began giving rides to people 60 and older about a month ago.
Ride Assist shuttles seniors to and from doctor's appointments so they don't have to depend on public transportation, family members, taxis or ridesharing services -- all of which have their downsides, says Karen Courney, co-chairwoman of the Naperville senior task force and one of the founders of the new service.
Public transportation only runs every so often and doesn't directly connect to all destinations. Family members have work and other obligations. Taxis and ridesharing services offer no assistance entering or exiting the destination.
Ride Assist solves those problems with volunteers such as Naperville resident Ann Elliott, who drove her Toyota up to the door of Sovereign's condo, helped the client and her walker into the car, then made the quick trip from Sovereign's home to the hospital.
Elliott parked close to the door, gave Sovereign her walker, and stayed by her side as the patient entered the Women's Imaging Center and checked in.
Courney said Elliott is among 19 volunteer drivers for Ride Assist who gave 26 rides within the first month of operation. The service is looking for more drivers as the needs of the senior population expand.
The program is based on an Arlington Heights nonprofit called Escorted Transportation Service Northwest, which has been driving seniors to doctor's appointments for the past 10 years. It's also similar to a transportation program run by the nearby FISH Food Pantry in Downers Grove, which takes seniors and people with disabilities or other needs to medical, vision and dental appointments.
All three services operate within specific areas, but the boundaries can offer flexibility depending on a client's need.
Ride Assist Naperville will pick up clients from inside the city, including unincorporated areas with Naperville addresses, and generally travels to destinations in an area bordered by Butterfield Road on the north, Route 53 on the east, Boughton Road, Plainfield/Naperville Road and Rodeo Drive on the south and Route 30 and Eola Road on the west.
Potential riders can apply by calling (630) 864-3087 or visiting rideassistnaperville.org. Those who can pay are asked to make a $12 donation for each round trip.
Sovereign said she plans to keep using Ride Assist for her medical appointments so she doesn't have to wait for rides home or plan her life by the bus schedule.
"It's more independent," she said.