Ms. Carolyn moved to Columbia and now uses the AARP Ride@50+ Program to experience independence again after recovering from a serious stroke.

For 86 years, the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) has been creating a positive, life-changing impact in Dallas County, Texas. VNA, a Meals on Wheels member, provides one of the largest Meals on Wheels programs in the United States, serving more than 6,000 meals each weekday with incredible volunteers, advanced technology, and precision execution.

When the AARP Ride@50+ Program launches service in the Dallas area in the spring of 2020, VNA will work with the Ride@50+ Program, powered by Feonix – Mobility Rising, to provide information about the Program to those receiving Meals on Wheels services. Individuals can call the Program call center, use the mobile app, or visit the website to learn more or to book a ride.

“VNA Meals on Wheels nourishes the whole person by providing home-delivered hot meals and social nutrition for seniors and disabled adults. VNA serves the hidden hungry — homebound, aging and unable to access resources like food banks and grocery stores,” says Chris Culak, Vice President, Chief of Strategy and Development with VNA. “Working with the AARP Ride@50+ Program will enhance our approach to deliver more than a meal, but also a connection to the outside world, creating a safety net by reducing medical costs and allowing seniors to live a more fully nourished life,” says Chris.

VNA is an established leader in coordinating resources and demonstrating impact for seniors in North Texas. For the homebound clients served, Meals on Wheels is not only nourishing and meaningful, but also cost-effective. When VNA recently partnered with PwC to measure the impact of Meals on Wheels they found that seniors who were receiving Meals on Wheels programming had lower healthcare costs, as well as fewer hospitalizations.

Seniors receiving VNA Meals on Wheels services that face challenges with food insecurity also often struggle with isolation and barriers in accessing care

A 2018 survey by AARP Foundation found that nearly half of older adults who are considered low-income are especially vulnerable to isolation. Individuals who are lonely and socially isolated are more likely to have health problems, which can have serious financial implications. Social isolation among midlife and older adults is associated with an estimated $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually.

The AARP Ride@50+ Program is focused on enhancing access to mobility options and making transportation a one-stop shop for residents in Dallas County.

“From getting individuals to the doctor, to church, or out with friends to play cards, we are excited to launch the AARP Ride@50+ Program with the support of local community leaders like VNA to ensure we’re able to make an impact for those in need from day one. We are so grateful for their willingness to work with us and know this is just the beginning,” says Valerie Lefler, Feonix – Mobility Rising Executive Director.

Adrian Ford

After operating in Columbia, SC for over a year, the AARP Ride@50+SM Program, powered by Feonix-Mobility Rising, has expanded into Dallas, TX. While Dallas and Columbia are vastly different communities, from size – both in population and square miles – to traffic patterns and demographics, both communities, like many others across the United States, have challenges with transportation. Access to appropriate, affordable transportation is a barrier for many. Adrian Ford, a Dallas Area Ride@50+ Program Manager, assists the community in tackling these transportation challenges.

You know those people that show you their heart within a few seconds of meeting them? Adrian Ford is one of those people. His smile tells those around him that he cares, and his words and actions follow suit. Adrian has wanted to serve his neighbors from a young age, and as he got older and learned about the role of social workers and community advocates, he fell in love with that path. Before joining the AARP Ride@50+ Program team, he spent 17 years as a case manager, supervisor, and consultant, working everywhere from Seattle, WA to Los Angeles, CA, and now Dallas, TX. On top of his service in social work, Adrian also served for six years in the United States Air Force as an Air Combat Controller.

In the midst of his career, service to the country, and focusing on being the best father and husband he can be to his wife, Tina, and their blended family of 4 kids, Adrian also found the time to start a non-profit called Head of Household. It provides community solutions to fatherless homes and aids in rebuilding the relationship between men and their families. Working directly with families in need through that Head of Household is what Adrian considers his most significant professional achievement to date. Now, however, Adrian is focusing his attention on older adults and the work of the AARP Ride@50+ Program because, as he describes, “This program gives all of us an opportunity to serve a generation that did more for us with fewer resources than we could imagine. The sacrifices that many older adults endured throughout their lifetime deserves to be honored with dignity and respect.”

While the AARP Ride@50+ Program aims to serve the community, being part of implementing the Program also brings Adrian a lot of joy. “I love seeing community members’ faces light up when we present them with a solution. I also love sharing the commitment we have to serving, even beyond transportation, and I love advocating on behalf of those whose voices do not always make it into the room for meetings that concern them,” shares Ford. The multiple mentions of community when talking about his new role is quite appropriate. As Adrian helps set up the Program in Dallas, one of the most vital roles he plays is working with community organizations and community leaders to build cooperative, sustainable transportation solutions. A lot of progress has already been made through the individual efforts of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), the City of Dallas, the My Ride Dallas program, CitySquare, and countless other groups. As Adrian puts it, “The community has been living through the challenges and the proposed solutions longer than we have been working on transportation. They are very aware of their needs, and what impact the AARP Ride@50+ Program may have in terms of providing the community access to the transportation services they provide.”

While the AARP Ride@50+ Program is not providing rides in the Dallas area yet, there is still plenty of work being done. On any given day, Adrian is meeting with transportation providers, government officials, community advocates, potential riders, businesses, and other non-profits so that he can learn about their needs and the best way to use the Ride@50+ Program to serve them. Once operational, individuals in Dallas, as well as third-party representatives, will be able to source, book, and pay for multi-modal transportation all in one place. Until then, an active group of community members, termed the Mobility Leadership Circle, continues to meet to work on the best way to implement transportation solutions to fit the existing landscape while filling gaps. Soon, Adrian will offer in-person training sessions to teach the community how to use the AARP Ride@50+ Program to get where they need to go, and rides are expected to start in the spring of 2020.