The Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia recently was awarded $10,000 to coordinate a ride-share program for senior citizens throughout the area.
“The idea is to help facilitate a more efficient way” to assist the over-65 population, said Jeff Dannick, executive director of the JCCNV. He envisions a communitywide approach that helps seniors get where they need to be instead of the current situation in which numerous organizations have separate, often overlapping, programs.
The JCC will work with such groups as the Jewish Council for the Aging, Fairfax County Long Term Care Coordinating Council and Shepherd’s Center and the Giving Circle of HOPE, most of which already have volunteer ride sharing programs.
The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia awarded the grant following release of its report, “A Portrait of our Aging Population in Northern Virginia,” which highlights trends impacting older adults.
According to that report, by the year 2030, the number of older adults in Northern Virginia will increase from 193,000 reported in 2010 to 429,000. The report also notes that more than 15 percent of the area’s population will be 65 and older by the year 2030.
Their needs are great. The study notes that more than 20,000 of senior adults currently live in poverty and 28 percent of older households are economically insecure. The rate of older adults without health insurance is roughly three times higher than the rate for all of Virginia.
Dannick said the report shows a need for the JCC and other organizations, both nonprofit and governmental, to step up. “We are definitely looking at the need to expand” many services as well as the geographic area the JCC serves, he said.
The JCC doesn’t have a ride-share program, but is interested in doing all it can to help seniors stay in their homes rather than move to assisted living or nursing facilities. Therefore, he said, drivers are needed to get people not just to doctors’ appointments and shopping but also social events.
Dannick is eager to work with those who need rides and those who have never volunteered, but may be willing to drive someone for an hour or two a week. “I see it as a win-win situation,” he said. First-time volunteers “can stick their toe in the water and hopefully will volunteer” for other programs as well.
He does not expect the ride-share program to begin until at least the fall. With the JCC in charge of coordination, marketing, fundraising and the logistics of the program, it will take time to work everything out, he said.
Meanwhile, the JCC has applied for more grants to help cover the cost of a computer program that will coordinate who needs rides, where they live, where they are going and who provides rides.
– Suzanne Pollak