Making seniors mobile

Program provides rides, prevents loneliness

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

VACAVILLE - Marie Hume is a 92-year-old woman who could hardly believe her license was taken away earlier this year by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Hume has been driving since the age of 21, first starting with an old family pickup truck in Missouri, and said she has never put a scratch on any of her cars, including her 1968 Oldsmobile she recently sold for $1,000.

'The guy who bought my car asked me if it still drives. I answered, I got it here, didnt I? ' she said.

The brazen woman, wearing a crocheted white hat that sits slightly to the left on her white hair, was told she was too old to drive. Needless to say, shes not happy about the decision.

Her husband of more than 65 years died 12 years ago and although he worked for decades, no arrangements were made to leave insurance for his wife. She now collects Social Security and lives on a fixed income.

'Its pretty bad when you live alone, but I cant stop living,' she said. 'I need something else to do.'


For the many seniors like Hume, some frail and others diagnosed with incurable diseases, the importance of maintaining independence is a struggle. Most are unable to drive, cannot afford public transportation and as a result, find difficulty in keeping their much needed medical appointments.

Eventually, they find themselves alone and feeling lonely, which can lead to negative physical effects.

A 2006 study by the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago found that lonely elderly people have blood pressure readings as much as 30 points higher than in non-lonely people.

More recently, findings from a 2007 study of more than 800 elderly patients followed over a four-year period suggest people who are lonely are twice as likely to develop Alzheimers Disease, according to Robert Wilson, professor of neuropsychology at Rush University Medical Centre.

Louis Souza-Fuentes, projects manager for Faith in Action, and more than 100 volunteers, are hoping to make a difference in the number of senior adults affected by aging, namely the 95,000 seniors in Solano County.

Faith in Action provides services to the seniors, such as Caregiver/Respite program and Cancer Support Services program as a way to promote independence, end isolation and help improve their quality of life.

They also provide the Ride with Pride program, transportation for seniors to and from their medical and social services appointments.

'The most important thing is to make sure they get to their doctors and help with grocery shopping and appointments,' Souza-Fuentes said. 'But in addition to basic needs its important to keep them connected to somebody and society at large, having them understand theyre not cast-aways and they do belong. They are a big part of society.'

Around town

Rene Romiski was looking for something to do in the community. She now drives a few senior women to and from their appointments along with other places around town.

'We have a few good laughs and Ive met good people,' she said.

One such person is 82-year-old Hattie Bueford, whose license was taken away because she has glaucoma in both eyes.

'I guess Im a hazard to myself and everyone else,' she said with her eyes wide open.

Bueford lives in a senior apartment and frequents the Vacaville Senior Center three days a week thanks to Romiski.

'I exercise, meet people and its helped my condition it keeps me from getting stiff,' she said.

Colleen Goodson, a 75-year-old woman who recently moved from Walnut Creek to be closer to her son, also shares a ride with Bueford to the center.

'My children suggested I quit driving,' she said and added, 'I was a good driver. My license was good until 2011.'

The Ride with Pride program, in existence already for 10 years, provides between 4,500 to 5,000 rides annually. The service is free and will not turn anyone away. The only requirement is that the person is aged 55 or older and in need.

'Sometimes the driver is the only connection these seniors have to the world,' Souza-Fuentes said. 'We have all these people who spend their entire life working hard, raising a family and probably have worked in one place for 30 years. Theyve managed to survive the depression and major wars. Now its a matter of surviving aging.'


Just about everyone who passes Hume at the Vacaville Senior Center smiles and stops to begin a conversation. Its evident she enjoys the dialogue.

'I come to this place often, Id say just about every day and I ride with the Pride program. They are the nicest bunch of people,' she the sharp woman while waving at her friends. 'You meet so many people did I mention I was raised on a farm? We were very poor and I was one of 11 children in the family. My mom worked as a cook at a hotel . . . '