Innumerable studies show that people need networks and community to stay healthy throughout their lives. Social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality and can be linked to poor cognitive performance and rapid memory decline. But what happens to a senior who does not drive, lives alone and may have health or mobility issues?

I had experience with isolation and loneliness when I had a health crisis and ended up wheelchair-bound, living alone and unable to work. Thank goodness I was old enough for Social Security. A visiting nurse came daily, Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands helped me with services, and the library brought me books, but I was depressed.

I reached out and was lucky enough to find a therapist who would come to my home. She recommended I talk to Neighborhood Falmouth. I became a member and, later, a volunteer. In the beginning, I went out to lunch with a volunteer driving. I kept going to events, enjoyed the members and volunteers I met and found a network.

Around the same time a visiting nurse encouraged me to call the CCRTA or Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority. My first ride was just after a winter storm left tons of snow and ice, and I was terrified in my chair. The drivers were helpful, super nice and I was reassured about the future.

Utilizing the DART (Dial-A-Ride-Transportation) program, I can call and book an appointment for a driver to come to my house and pick me up in a nice little bus with a wheelchair lift; then it will pick me up at an arranged time and take me home. For seniors and disabled the cost is $1.50 per ride or $22.50 for 20 rides with a “pass.” These buses run Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM but not Sundays or holidays. There are many more rules listed on the CCRTA’s wonderful website – www.capecodrta.org—or you can call them at 800-352-7155.

The recent tornado warning reminded me of the program DART offers for situations such as winter storms or hurricanes. When there is a serious advance weather warning, you can find help with transport to a shelter. Again, call 800-352-7155.

I have heard complaints that the buses are crowded, they stop for many passengers and it takes forever. I take the bus a couple of times per week and in four years I have only had two rides where that was the case. I have actually had DART dispatchers work with me when my doctor needed more time past my appointed ride home. There are other “on demand” services available from the CCRTA. If you are disabled, you might want to look into the ADA rides. Information is available on the website noted earlier in the article or at 800-352-7155.

The big buses you may have seen on Route 28 are the CCRTA’s “fixed route” programs. In Falmouth we have SEALINE buses and the WHOOSH trolley. They run on fixed routes at scheduled times and are wheelchair-accessible. For information on routes, times and fares consult the website, call 800-352-7155, or flag down a bus for brochures (pick a designated stop or a safe stopping place, of course).

Currently, the CCRTA has a program for seniors to ride free on Wednesdays and encourage you to go out for shopping and/or lunch. Even if you drive, you don’t have to find parking. Also it is worth remembering the buses connect to many other Cape Cod towns.

The Falmouth Senior Center Council on Aging also has transportation options for seniors. There is a shuttle van service within the Town of Falmouth which is available by appointment made at least 48 hours in advance and runs every weekday morning except Thursday. On Thursday, the van takes passengers grocery shopping. The senior center also has a senior volunteer ride service for medical appointments. Requests must be made in advance and service depends on the availability of volunteers; there is a small charge.

Boston Hospital Transportation is available from several sources. The CCRTA has an accessible van that drives to various Boston hospitals Monday through Friday from Barnstable or Sagamore. Medical appointments must be between 10 AM and 2 PM and reservations must be made in advance. The hospitals’ service cost and other information are available on the website mentioned earlier or by calling 800-352-7155. Please note: There is also a Boston Hospital Trip available by “MEDIVAN” on Tuesdays leaving from the front of the Ticket Office in Woods Hole at 7:30 AM. Please call 508-693-9440 for information, reservations (required) and price.

Whenever I need a ride I often rely on the DART program with accessible buses versus a private car. It is easier for me. But there are rules, and the buses don’t run all the time—for example, not at night. And since I started getting out, sometimes I might need a ride a night. Fighting isolation means I’ll live longer and have more fun! I hope you do, too!

Jackie Pratt is a member and volunteer at Neighborhood Falmouth, the local nonprofit that helps Falmouth seniors stay safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible. New volunteers are needed. Information at neighborhoodfalmouth.org.

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