SMILES for seniors: Blount County Community Action Agency’s Office on Aging develops senior transportation service
By Joel Davis | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Blount County Community Action Agency is playing a role in helping develop transportation services for senior citizens in the community.
SMILES is the proposed name of a senior transportation program that is scheduled to launch in October, providing essential trips within Blount County to those age 60-plus who do not drive.
The program is meant to supplement other efforts to secure public transportation services in Blount County, such as the service provided by the East Tennessee Human Resources Agency (ETHRA).
Joani Shaver, director of the BCCAA Office on Aging, said this is the most important project she’s worked on since coming to the agency.
“Right now, it’s seeing this transportation program have the possibility of being extremely successful,” she said. “It’s so needed. Transportation is the foundation for quality of life for so many other things. If you can’t get anywhere, your health deteriorates, you can’t buy food.”
Through the SMILES program, volunteers would use their personal vehicles to provide the door-through-door service 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The program will be housed in the Blount County Office on Aging at BCCAA. Shaver is hoping for an Oct. 1 launch.
“We’re getting pretty close to kicking it off,” Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor said. “We’re going to do testing Sept. 1 and actually go live Oct. 1. We got the software in, and we’ve received four grants. We’re funded now. We’re in the process of hiring a manager.”
Taylor has worked closely with Shaver and the BCCAA staff on the SMILES project. “What impresses me most is they do it just about 100 percent with volunteers,” he said. “They have very few paid staff members yet they turn out the work.”
Transportation services for the elderly are a big part of what the Office on Aging does. The office can help offer transportation to elderly who have no other transportation resources. Priority is given to medical and social services appointments. Volunteers are also available to accompany and assist the elderly individual to medical appointments or social service agencies or to assist them in banking or shopping.
378 seniors served
During the 2012-13 fiscal year, the Office on Aging provided service to 378 Blount County seniors with more than 1,700 hours of service. Funding in this area has remained flat for the past three to four years, but the need for the service has increased, Shaver said.
The total BCCAA budget has shrunk from $3.7 million in fiscal year 2010 to about $2 million currently.
From fiscal year 2011 until the present, total federal funding for BCCAA programs has fallen by $483,300 from $1.7 million to $1.2 million.
The Office on Aging’s services also include providing information about resources available to people age 60 and over, helping them access those services, and acting as advocates for them.
The office can also offer assistance to those elderly who have difficulty with daily living activities. Services include light housework, general household chores, laundry, shopping, meal preparation, and other assistance as permitted.
BCCAA is located at 3509 Tuckaleechee Pike, Maryville. For more information, call 983-8411 or go to http://www.blountcaa.org