With the help of a federal grant, senior citizens in Morgan Hill now have access to a program that provides reliable transportation and fills needs for socialization and community involvement.
At a press conference Oct. 21, Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine joined coordinators of Reach Your Destination Early (RYDE) to announce the program’s expansion into Morgan Hill and parts of San Jose.
RYDE offers safe, affordable transportation services to residents age 65 and older. RYDE drivers provide passengers with rides to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments or other errands, as well as family gatherings or visits with friends. Drivers can also help connect passengers with other services they might need.
The program was able to expand into Morgan Hill with the help of a federal grant aimed at helping senior citizens who live in “transportation deserts”—communities that lack easily accessible public transportation.
“Now that we’ve been in the lockdown so long, many of us are feeling isolated. Imagine if you don’t have access to transportation. That’s something we have had to deal with in Morgan Hill,” Constantine said at the press conference. “With this partnership with RYDE, we’ll be able to supply transportation to seniors that didn’t have that ability to get out. Now they’ll be less isolated. They’ll be able to be more of a part of the community, which is something that we are all striving to do.”
In Morgan Hill, RYDE will merge with the city’s Get’n Around Town Volunteer Driver Program, which provides rides for seniors to and from the Centennial Recreation Senior Center.
“Merging with RYDE means additional funding, marketing, and a supportive network of two caring organizations aligned with our goal of keeping older adults connected to the community,” said Debbie Vasquez, Recreation Supervisor for the Morgan Hill Senior Center.
RYDE originally launched three years ago in a partnership between West Valley Community Services and the Saratoga Area Senior Coordinating Council. The program was designed to help seniors to continue living independently by offering an easy, affordable option for getting around town, according to a press release from RYDE.
“RYDE enables older adults to connect back to their communities even if they can’t drive,” SASCC Executive Director Tylor Taylor said at Wednesday’s press conference.
Taylor said while people of all ages in recent months—due to Covid-19 shelter-in-place restrictions—have learned what it’s like to be isolated from their friends, families and community, “This is everyday life for far too many seniors in our area. RYDE is designed to mitigate that circumstance.”
He added that RYDE is as much a social services specialist as a transportation provider. RYDE’s paid and volunteer drivers are trained to get to know their passengers, listen for cues and connect them to resources if they are in need.
“This is about providing people with an opportunity to be social with each other, for generations to bridge a gap… and to share family stories and build a connection with each other,” said Lisa Oakley, RYDE driver and Board President of SASCC.
Two regular RYDE passengers from West Valley communities also spoke at the Oct. 21 press conference. Laurel Perusa, of Saratoga, said because she suffers from macular degeneration, she is unable to drive. That has posed difficulties in the past, as Perusa enjoys being involved in her community.
“RYDE has enabled me to continue volunteer work and be engaged in my community,” Perusa said. “It is important for everyone to feel productive and have a purpose. RYDE takes me to my volunteer commitments, doctors appointments and get-togethers with friends.”
RYDE drivers and coordinators follow strict protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Taylor explained at the press conference. These precautions include temperature checks, plexiglass dividers within vehicles, masks, gloves, deep cleaning between rides and other steps.
Saratoga Mayor Howard Miller, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and other area officials also spoke about the benefits of RYDE at the Oct. 21 press conference.
Seniors in Morgan Hill can reserve a RYDE trip from two days to one month in advance. Passengers pay for RYDE trips on a sliding scale based on the senior’s income. RYDE fees range from 90 cents to $18, and financial assistance is available.