Friday, April 25, 2014

Further Perspective on Our Transportation

This week’s reflection comes from and offers great context for both our Volunteer Transportation and Hyde Shuttle programs.

Personal Transportation for Seniors
Did you know that one-half of Americans 65 and older do not have access to public transportation? And that more than half of all non-drivers 65 and older stay at home in a given day because they don’t have transportation options? Those in rural areas and small towns are particularly affected because the transportation options are limited.
But it’s important for seniors to remain mobile to keep their social independence with friends and family; to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and many other life-prolonging benefits.
Is it Time to Stop Driving?
For some seniors, the answer is obvious. They may be too visually impaired to continue driving.
Just consider these vision and driving facts:
  • Vision provides about 85% of information we need to make safe decisions when driving.
  • A 60-year-old requires 10 times as much light to drive as a 19-year-old.
  • A 55-year-old takes eight times longer to recover from glare than a 16-year-old.
  • Older drivers can take twice as long to distinguish the flash of brake lights as younger drivers.
A study of the problems seniors face with transportation was conducted by the Beverly Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. summarized their findings with the following themes:
  •  Seniors continue driving “as long as possible because they are unaware of, or do not believe they have, alternative means of transportation.”
  • Seniors “limit their driving or stop driving altogether because of functional difficulties.”
  • “By the time they stop driving, many older adults are so disabled that they are unable to use most public and para-transit systems.”
  • “Next to health, transportation is the most important issue for seniors.”

Ride by ride, we break down these transportation barriers for seniors of King County—providing reassurance and comfort with a personal touch.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Giving at Any Age

Today's post is a video for your viewing enjoyment.  The woman featured in this short film is reminiscent of so many of our volunteer drivers, and her story touches on many themes of our programs.

Her powerful words of wisdom should definitely stick with us: "I'm on the earth.  I'm here.  If I can contribute, I should!  Shouldn't we all-- and not just think of ourselves?!"
Friday, April 11, 2014

“12th Man” Celebration

Today marks the end of National Volunteer Week – a nationally designated time to celebrate the contributions and resources that community volunteers provide.  Although we attempt to express appreciation to our volunteers all 52 weeks of the year, it’s a wonderful reminder to all of us of the work and support that our volunteers bring to both the Volunteer Transportation and Hyde Shuttle programs.

With the help of the City of Auburn, we had the opportunity to recognize some of our volunteer drivers who serve older Auburn residents.  We attended a special luncheon entitled “Auburn Volunteers: Our 12th Man” that featured food, decorations, activities, and guest speakers all with a Seahawks motif.  With lots of “12th man” references, the event showcased volunteer contributions within the Auburn community and provided organizations with a way to say “thanks” to their precious volunteers.

Special guests at the event included: Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, Miss Teen Auburn, Phil Bates-- #13 and a Wide Receiver with the Seahawks, Miss Auburn, and Christian from the Sea Gals.
Hilary (Volunteer Transportation staff member), Bruce (volunteer driver), Katie (volunteer driver), and Frank (volunteer driver) greatly enjoyed the luncheon.

In line with the “12th man” theme, organizations were asked to create and perform a cheer honoring their volunteers.  We quickly came up with the following:

Give me a D!
D is for Dedicated because our drivers never fail to be there!
Give me an R
R is for Respectful because they treat seniors with care!
Give me an I!
I is for Important because they help folks in need!
Give me a V!
V is for Valuable because transportation is precious indeed!
Give me an E!
E is for Empathetic because our drivers always understand.
Give me an R!
R is for Ready because our drivers are ready to lend a hand!
What does that spell? 
Our drivers are super, fabulous, and great!
They are very easy to appreciate!!
Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo drivers!!!!
(Insert back flip here).

Happy National Volunteer Week to all!
Friday, April 4, 2014

HONORABLE SERVICE: Volunteer Drivers Serve Veteran

When the bombs began to drop on Pearl Harbor, 22-year-old Joe Mathias was on the bridge of the Case-DD370, a destroyer ship dismantled for repairs, looking toward the navy yard and waiting to instruct his fellow navy crew members to commence the Morning Colors Ceremony.  But his life, and the course of history, changed in an instant as the explosions interrupted his daily duties as Messenger to the Quartermaster. 

Joe stayed focused amidst the commotion.  As he carried a heavy box of ammunition across the ship, he was so close to Japanese fighter planes that he could see their pilots in the cockpits.  Later that evening, after engineers had fixed the Case-DD370 to allow it to move again, Joe and the rest of the crew received orders to drop a 600-pound canister of dynamite on a Japanese submarine that had been spotted in the harbor.  Joe has since read many reports about Pearl Harbor, but he says, “I’ve never seen that part in the history books!  And most of the stories that have been published aren’t the ones I know.”

Joe has an uncanny ability to lucidly recall details—names, dates, facts, foods, numbers, descriptions— from many events of his life.  He recounts his experiences from the Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 as if they were yesterday, and he shares other stories from his youth, years in the navy, and adulthood with equally rich narration.  As he describes a bombardment while stationed on Attu in the Aleutian Islands, the suspense is palpable. 

But Joe also shares less dramatic pieces of his life.  He talks of becoming paralyzed due to Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 1968 and of his wife’s struggles with Alzheimer’s Disease prior to her death in 2007.  His life has been full of all sorts of unexpected challenges—each calling for a different type of bravery.

Joe is now 95, and he often uses the Volunteer Transportation program for needed rides.  The volunteer drivers who take him to/from medical appointments have the privilege of listening to his wide-ranging and vivid accounts.  It is an honor to learn from someone with such a repertoire of life experiences, and meeting people like Joe is what makes driving with the Volunteer Transportation program such a meaningful and enjoyable activity.  As Joe talks, it is easy to see the spirit of a young sailor infusing the true tales of this animated veteran.

This is 21-year-old Joe at Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Illinois.  As he shows this photo,
he chuckles and recalls seeing a sign that read, "Sailors and dogs, keep off the grass!" 
Joe's dog tags hang from his wall.  He explains the rather morbid purpose of
the ridges found at the end of them"They're placed into the teeth of
a dead man to identify him!" he says.
Joe holds onto a photo montage featuring many key ingredients of his life,
 including pictures with his wife (Phyllis) and images of the Case-DD370.  Ever the
storyteller, Joe quickly jumps into detailed descriptions of items and events
depicted in the collage. 

About Me

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“Behind the Wheel” offers stories, reflections, news and updates about Sound Generations’ (formerly Senior Services') Transportation Program. Throughout King County, our inspiring volunteers provide needed mobility to local seniors, supporting them in their efforts to remain independent, healthy, and happy. Please drop by to read more about the unique experiences of our volunteers, clients and staff!
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