MAG Transportation Program Trying To Help Older Adults In Rural Arizona

Published: Monday, September 7, 2020 - 10:16am

Many of Arizona’s older adults live in rural communities. It can make aging in Arizona and across the country challenging, especially when it comes to transportation.

The Maricopa Association of Governments has been trying to bridge that gap with an innovative project designed to expand services. 

Access to reliable and affordable transportation can be tough for older adults. That’s why the Maricopa Association of Governments created Age Friendly Arizona, a way to connect people with resources in their communities. 

"But in our work, we very quickly discover that the more important question is how do we meaningfully connect older adults with their communities," said Amy St. Peter with MAG.

That led to the creation of the Rural Transportation Incubator, a grant funded project that is creating and expanding transportation options in places like Payson, Winslow and Sierra Vista for older adults. 

"As a result of receiving the services that over 60% of people serve have reported a dramatic decrease in their isolation," she said.

And during the pandemic, organizations that are participating in the incubator are adapting. So instead of taking seniors to the grocery story, they’re delivering food to them. 

Roughly 155,000 Arizonans 65 and older live in a rural part of the state. It means access to some services can be difficult, especially if that person can no longer drive. 

The program has been so successful, it’s funding nine more projects across the state and providing additional funding to groups like Volunteer Interfaith Caregiver Program in southern Arizona. 

"They have 100 volunteers who are really dedicated and they're serving more than 1,000 clients, older adults in their communities," said St. Peter. "As a result of the pandemic. Instead of driving older adults to the girl to the grocery store, for example, they're able to adapt. And so now they're bringing the food to the older adults, keeping them nourished and keeping them safe."

St. Peter says 60% of the people they’ve served have reported a dramatic decrease in their isolation and 56% have reported and an increase in access to social services.