Westbrook, Maine – The first national, non-profit transportation service for the aging population will reach the half-million ride mark Monday, March 4, at one of ITNAmerica’s 23 ITN affiliates in 18 states. The service began in 1995 as the Independent Transportation Network in Portland, Maine. Designed to recreate the comfort and convenience of private automobile ownership, ITN uses automobiles and a combination of paid and volunteer drivers to provide arm-through-arm and door-through-door service 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, for any purpose.
It has taken almost 18 years to reach half a million rides, but at the current rate of growth, ITNAmerica will reach the next half million in only 3 more years. Such growth will be necessary, if the 10,000 boomers now turning 65 each day are to have the kind of independent mobility today’s ITN members enjoy.
Local affiliate, ITNStCharles began providing rides in April 2010 and is nearing the 10,000 mark for St. Charles County residents.
“Our customers feel safe and secure with our drivers, and so many friendships have blossomed between our volunteer drivers and our customers,” said Susan Kallash-Bailey, Executive Director. “We give people the freedom and independence to choose when they go shopping or to doctor’s appointments and let them enjoy church activities, dining out, going to the movies or library.”
Most of the people who use ITN are in their 80’s, and 4 out of 5 are women. Twenty percent (20%) of rides are for people with a visual impairment, and 41% of rides are for medical needs. Other rides are for shopping and personal consumer needs (22%), recreation (9%) and volunteer activities or work (8%).
ITN has won numerous national awards for its innovative practices. ITN provides an unusual incentive for volunteer drivers: they may earn credits for their own future transportation needs in the Transportation Social Security Program, a practice that seems to be working, since 200,000 of the half million rides were delivered by volunteers from across the country. In this way volunteer drivers not only help current seniors get around, but prepare for a time when they will retire from driving. Helping people plan for the transportation future is a significant issue. There are now 40 million Americans age 65 and older, and research shows that they will outlive their decision to stop driving later in life by more than a decade.
Another of ITNAmerica’s innovations is the CarTrade program, in which older people may exchange the vehicles they no longer drive for transportation credits to pay for their rides. ITNAmerica also encourages merchants to help fund trips to their stores through the Ride & Shop Program. Similarly healthcare providers that participate in the Healthy Miles Program help seniors get to medical appointments.
Liberty Mutual Insurance is a national sponsor of ITNAmerica. Local sponsors help in affiliate communities across the nation. ITNStCharles’ premier sponsor is Breeze Park, a Lutheran Senior Services Community. ITN’s mission is also supported locally by Barnes-Jewish St Peters Hospital and ProgressWest.
For more information please visit www.ITNStCharles.org or call (636) 329-0888.