May 26 is National Senior Health and Fitness Day! Recently we talked with Alison Peterson, Community Development Manager for Feonix Mobility Rising. Through their AARP Ride@50+ program Feonix Mobility Rising not only provides assistance with transportation to medical appointments, their new Vaccinate Washtenaw program helps connect county residents with transportation to and from Covid vaccine appointments!
Ahead of the Curve: If you had to give an “elevator speech” about what your organization does, how would you describe it?
Alison Peterson: Feonix – Mobility Rising is a non-profit that creates mobility solutions with the goal of transportation access for all. Here in Washtenaw County, we have partnered with the AARP and Toyota to launch the AARP Ride@50+ Program. The Ride@50+ Program is dedicated to enhancing access to transportation options for all, with a particular focus on older adults and underserved populations. The AARP Ride@50+ Program launched in Washtenaw County at the end of December.
Access to transportation is a social determinant of health in that being able to access transportation can help people age in place and increase access to medical care and food/nutrition. Access to transporation can also help people maintain independence and reduce isolation.
There are a great many gaps in transportation access here in Washtenaw County – as there are in so many places. Busses, taxis and rideshare services are widely available in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, but what about the more rural parts of the county? And what about people for whom the cost of transportation is a barrier?
The goal of the AARP Ride@50+ Program is to enhance access to transportation options in Washtenaw County for older adults and underserved populations. It’s built on the Mobility-as-a-Service framework and is a one-stop-shop for accessing affordable, local, public and private transportation.
AOTC: Walk me through the step-by-step process. What happens when you get a phone call/referral?
AP: So here is how to use the AARP Ride@50+ Program. The Ride@ 50+ Program is a one-stop-shop for transportation options, allowing riders to see all of the available options, make decisions, and book and pay for rides – all in one place. There are three ways for riders or someone on behalf of a rider to plan and book a trip:
First, they can call our toll-free number at (844) 900-4892 and speak with one of our call center agents.
Second, they can click to access the AARP Ride@ 50+ Program website at aarp.org/bookaride where the platform will guide them into creating an account and booking a ride.
Third, they can tap by downloading the Feonix app on a smart device through iOS or Android app stores.
Community Organizations, such as medical clinics, hospitals, senior residences, community centers, faith-based organizations, shelters and social services agencies can make an account and use the program to book rides for those constituents who are most in need. Individuals can use the program on their own as well to source affordable, local transportation, and book and pay for those rides.
AOTC: What organizations do you work closely with?
AP: First of all, we have an amazing group of transportation providers participating in the Ride@50+ Program: Michigan Green Cars, Stadium Taxi, Jewish Family Services, The WAVE, People’s Express, Milan Seniors for Healthy Living, Safeway Medical Transport, and volunteer drivers. This group of providers weaves together transportation services across Washtenaw County and allows us to truly service the ENTIRE county. These providers are truly what make the wheels of this whole program turn.
In terms of organizations in the community we work with to provide access to transportation options, we work closely with community groups such as medical clinics, veterans groups, hospitals, senior residences, senior centers, groups that advocate for persons with disabilities, community centers, faith-based organizations, shelters and social service agencies. Really any group whose patients, residents, and members face barriers to transportation.
AOTC: What are some things you wish the public knew about your role?
AP: Access to transportation affects so many facets of life. A ride can be about so much more than just a ride. Services and needs are interconnected. Medical issues, housing security issues, food security issues, challenges that seniors and people with disabilities face – these all can often be connected to transportation issues as well. And so my role is about more than just the Ride@50+ Program itself, more than just about a program that provides access to affordable transportation options. A big part of my role is networking and community building and convening. It’s about bringing as many community organizations together as possible and seeing what we can all do together. When we connect the dots between senior services, health care, housing, a secure food supply and transportation, we can help so many people and accomplish amazing things together.
AOTC: What tips do you have for someone with a loved one that needs assistance with transportation?
AP: Reach out for help! We are so fortunate here in Washtenaw County to have an amazing and very connected group of community organizations that can provide assistance. For people facing transportation related challenges, reach out to me personally, and we’ll figure out a solution. People can always call the Feonix call center as well at (844) 900-4892. Feonix and the Ride@50+ Program are here, our program is up and running in Washtenaw County, and we can help!
AOTC: Is there anything you would like to add?
AP: Two things, actually!
The first is that the Vaccinate Washtenaw Project is live! Vaccinate Washtenaw is a multi-agency collaboration designed to provide free, door-to-door, accessible transportation to and from Covid-19 vaccination appointments via the Ride@50+ Program. Just call (844) 900-4892 and use code “Vaccinate Washtenaw” to book your ride(s). This program is open to anyone regardless of age or AARP membership.
The second is to recognize our Feonix Volunteer Drivers. Volunteer drivers are a very important part of the Ride@50+ Program – driving their own vehicles and providing a very affordable transportation option – the cost to riders is mileage only. If anyone is interested in becoming a volunteer driver, please visit volunteerdriver.org or reach out to me.
Thank you so much to Alison for sharing information about these valuable community resources! To learn more about Feonix, visit feonixmobilityrising.org. Visit aarp.org/ridewashtenaw to learn more about the AARP Ride@50+ Program in Washtenaw County.