Seniors who desperately need rides for medical treatment or food can get help through LIFE ElderCare.

Joan, an 86-year-old woman suffering from arthritis and diabetes, recently moved from her home in the Midwest to the Bay Area at the urging of her children. Once settled in, however, the children had to relocate to keep their jobs. She is now living on her own, unsteady on her feet, and unable to shop for food. Her children have invited her join them in their new home but Joan doesn’t feel strong enough to make another move. She recently signed up for VIP Rides because she had no way to get to the grocery store.

Carol, a 71-year-old single woman, started using VIP Rides in April 2010 to get to her physical therapy appointments. She was so pleased with the service that she requested a ride to her doctor for a mammogram. A malignant growth was found in one of her breasts that required surgery. The two VIP Rides volunteers that had been taking her to physical therapy offered to give her a ride to the hospital and back home after her surgery.

Without access to safe and affordable transportation, many older adults may experience isolation and a reduced quality of life. A 2004 study found that seniors age 65 and older who no longer drive make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor, 59 percent fewer trips to shop or eat out, and 65 percent fewer trips to visit friends and family, than drivers of the same age.

Marlene, 72, heard about VIP Rides from her doctor two years ago while she was being treated for a back condition. He recommended the program when she told him that it was hard to get to appointments because she could no longer drive. Due to her back condition and minor strokes, and her husband’s vision loss, they had sold their cars. They had been using cabs to get around in Fremont but the cost was $40-$50 for each round trip.

“Our program is often a life saver for elderly residents who have no family or friends to help them,“ says Lori Vogel, VIP Rides Coordinator. “People reach out to us because they simply have no other way to get to doctor appointments or to buy food.”

VIP Rides currently has a ratio of one volunteer for every four requests. During the past 10 weeks, the top ten volunteers have responded to 129 requests for help. More volunteers are desperately needed. Can you spare a few hours a week to help Joan, Carol, or Marlene? Call VIP Rides Volunteer Outreach Coordinator, Barbara Proctor at 510-574-2094 or sign up online.