Pitkin County Senior Services gives seniors hope with volunteer driving program

Erica Robbie | The Aspen Times
Joanna Belmont has lunch with friends at the Aspen Senior Center. She is one of many seniors who benefits from Pitkin County's senior service program.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Drive a senior

For more information on the DASH program, including how to become a volunteer driver or to arrange transportation, email or call 970-920-5432.

For Joanna Belmont, the volunteer drivers of Pitkin County Senior Services “make life worth living.”

Belmont was diagnosed with three eye conditions 21/2 years ago that have prevented her from driving.

Aside from transporting Belmont to and from her doctor appointments, the volunteer drivers provide the 67-year-old with company, friendship and the chance to get out of the house.

“The volunteer drivers are very valuable to me,” Belmont said. “They give me hope for the day, they keep me sane, and they keep me alive.”

Pitkin County Senior Services program analyst Patty Kravitz said Belmont is one of many seniors in the valley who are no longer able to get behind the wheel of a vehicle or otherwise transport themselves around.

Pitkin County Senior Services is partnering with Eagle County’s Healthy Aging program to launch a program called Drivers Assisting Seniors for Health, otherwise known as DASH, in an effort to meet this growing need.

While Pitkin County Senior Services has offered seniors some form of transportation since the department’s inception during the late 1970s, Kravitz said it hasn’t always been able to meet demand.

“We are a rural mountain community, and traditional transportation options can’t always serve our seniors,” Kravitz said.

By formalizing the service into a program, the senior center hopes to expand its reach, acquire more volunteers and help more seniors in need.

Before Senior Services volunteer Carmen Barber drove Sam Bacon to her doctor appointments in Glenwood Springs, Bacon would take a taxi from home to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, a plane to Denver and another taxi to a hospital in Denver, Barber said.

While Barber recognizes how important her service is to Bacon, she said the relationship is mutually beneficial.

“It’s a great opportunity to get to know somebody you may not have otherwise,” Barber said. “I’ve gotten a lot out of it.”

Originally from England, Barber added that her friendship with the elder American has been a novel experience.

Another motive behind the DASH program is addressing increasing future need, as the county anticipates its senior population — and consequent demand — to grow over the next 20-plus years, Kravitz said.

For instance, in 2015, there were 426 seniors older than 80 living in Pitkin County, according to Senior Services.

By 2025, the over-80 population is expected to nearly double to 826 county residents.

By 2040, this demographic is projected to more than triple its 2015 count, accounting for 1,422 people in Pitkin County.

Kravitz said the transportation service not only helps seniors with their medical appointments and other necessities but also provides them the opportunity to interact and engage with others, which becomes key with age, Belmont noted.

“Socialization is probably the most beneficial thing a senior can do for their health,” Kravitz said. “And we want to help our seniors remain an active part of the community as much as we can.”


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