Volunteer drivers are a godsend to seniors who have lost their driver’s licences and in the process, their independence.
The Langley Seniors Resources Society (LSRS) is facing a shortage of drivers and is on a recruiting mission for volunteers to drive Langley seniors to and from their appointments.
Using their own vehicles, trained volunteer drivers pick up seniors at their homes and take them to their appointments, and then return them home.
Volunteers will be reimbursed for the cost of their gas, and training begins Feb. 7.
Senior clients are responsible for parking costs and bridge tolls.
Anyone can volunteer to drive, provided he or she is 19 or older, has a fully qualified drivers licence, doesn’t have any auto insurance restrictions, is able to pass a criminal record check, and has a good driving record.
The payoff is the satisfaction of helping a senior who is no longer able to drive, says LSRS director of outreach and volunteer services Janice McTaggart.
“This is one of the biggest losses that our seniors face, is the loss of their licence,” McTaggart said.
“Knowing they have some ways to get around — it’s not the same (as driving themselves) but it’s better than nothing.”
McTaggart said seniors are driven to Langley and beyond. “We go everywhere. We go to Vancouver and we go to Tsawwassen, and we go to the airport…”
With regard to time requirements, “four hours (each week) would be minimum,” McTaggart offered.
However, anything beyond the required four hours is appreciated, noted LSRS administrative assistant Carrie Hadden.
The majority of the LSRS’s volunteer drivers are seniors, and the society lost three of them to cancer this past year. And due to the shrinking number of volunteer drivers, if newcomers don’t come on board soon, it will be “critical” to the program, said Hadden.
The LSRS offers roughly seven rides each day to local seniors and up to 150 rides per month.
The seniors who benefit from the rides are very grateful.
Hadden noted that one man said his monthly rides to the eye doctor has helped him maintain his failing vision, “and he wouldn’t be able to get there if we didn’t do it.”
“We’re maintaining people’s health, maintaining their connection to the community, so if they want to go grocery shopping, or want to go to the hairdresser, or want to come here (to the Langley Seniors Recreation & Resource Centre) for something, they still have a way to be connected to their community,” McTaggart said.
Seniors use modes of public transit such as HandyDart, but getting a ride from a volunteer driver is a much more convenient and personal way to get around, McTaggart explained.
“They’ll request (specific drivers),” she said with a laugh.
Becoming a volunteer driver looks good on a young person’s resume, notes McTaggart. “There’s real people skills involved, you have to develop a rapport with your client, and you have to be very patient because some people move slowly.”
The volunteer driver program is also ideal for empty nesters or newly retired people looking for a way to give back to the community, said Hadden.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer driver can contact Janice at 604-530-3020, ext. 302 or email her at email@example.com.
Volunteer application forms can also be picked up at the centre (20605 51B Ave.), or be filled out online at www.lsrs.ca (click on the ‘get involved’ tab and then follow the steps).