The older adult population in South Carolina is expected to double by the year 2030 to 1.8 million, according to the South Carolina Department on Aging. In Richland and Lexington Counties, the census data shows that almost 12% of seniors live in poverty. Over a third rely solely on Social Security, which is often as little as $710 per month, to pay the bills. Because of this and other factors, a growing number of older adults struggle with access to transportation, which is an important element of overall wellness, and need support from additional services to get them where they need to go.
In response to this need, the AARP Ride@50+SM Program works with many community entities to assess their specific transportation situation and, where possible, help provide access to low-cost transportation options for older adults in Richland and Lexington Counties. Senior Rides of Lexington, a 501c3 transportation provider established in 2017, and the South Carolina Department on Aging also see the need for low-cost transportation options for the area’s 50-plus population. The Senior Rides service is powered by volunteer drivers and managed by Turner Memorial African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church’s Pastor, Reverend Kenneth Taylor. Senior Rides has a strong volunteer driver base, but lacks a robust technology management platform to connect drivers with riders – that’s where the AARP Ride@50+ Program comes in. By joining the Program as a transportation provider, Senior Rides’ current riders who are users of the Ride@50+ Program now have access to an app, online booking platform, and call center to find and book rides with their preferred provider, and the AARP Ride@50+ Program now has Senior Rides’ volunteer drivers as an option on the platform.
Reverend Kenneth Taylor, who leads the Senior Rides of Lexington program, is a long-term advocate for seniors in Richland and Lexington Counties. In 2019, the City of West Columbia honored him with a resolution recognizing him for his service to the community and thanking him for his “positive influence, leadership, and dedication to the City of West Columbia and its citizens.”
Melanie Dalton, the South Carolina Community Development Manager supporting the AARP Ride@50+ Program, met Reverend Taylor at the Faith and Community: United to Serve symposium for faith leaders and community organizers in August 2019: “We both presented our transportation programs to the attendees at the symposium and recognized that there may be a synergy.”
Melanie believes that Reverend Taylor’s deep roots in the faith community in Columbia, combined with the AARP Ride@50+ Program’s network, has the potential to make a substantial difference in the lives of those without access to reliable transportation options by allowing the Senior Rides program to scale and each organization to focus on their expertise.
The collaboration between Senior Rides of Lexington and the AARP Ride@50+ Program is a great example of how like-minded organizations can support older adults together.
When asked about the value this relationship brings to the AARP Ride@50+ Program, Valerie Lefler, Executive Director of Feonix—Mobility Rising, which powers the Program, stated: “Senior Rides of Lexington has been growing organically for a few years, and Reverend Kenneth Taylor has a deep connection with the ‘why’ behind this work. He knows it’s about much more than just getting people to a doctor’s appointment or the store; it’s about health, nourishment, and allowing people to connect with family and friends.”