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Senior Ride Nashville is a non-profit organization launched in November 2017 to improve the quality of lives within the city’s aging community.
Within one year, the volunteer-powered transportation service has grown from its Bellevue roots to include all of West Nashville, Donelson, Old Hickory, Hermitage, and, beginning this month, East Nashville.
We spoke with Carrie Brumfield, the organization’s executive director, about how the organization is making a difference in the lives of seniors during its first year on the roads.
What inspired the launch of Senior Ride Nashville?
Nashville has about 33,000 residents who are age 75 and older, which is the demographic most likely to be restricted from driving due to age-related physical limitations. Once someone loses the ability to drive, that person’s quality of life and health may suffer without receiving medical treatment as often as they would if they were driving. In some cases, someone might find themselves in a food scarcity situation because they're not able to get to the grocery store.
Senior Ride Nashville was born to address these needs by providing assisted, affordable and friendly transportation. We recruit, screen and train volunteers from the Nashville community because with every one new volunteer driver we can enroll two more riders.
Within its first year Senior Ride Nashville exceeded 2,000 rides and expanded to other parts of the county. What was the response like at the beginning to get where you are today?
When we opened our doors, we had more volunteers than we did riders, which allowed us to go ahead and expand our service area to the whole West Nashville community. We saw the ridership coming in at a steady pace, and community partners like Fifty Forward, Jewish Family Service, AARP and lots of other organizations were really helpful for us in that first launch in Bellevue.
How does volunteering work for those who are interested?
Our service is flexible because volunteers can access our online scheduling platform to select rides based on their availability. Maybe someone is looking to only volunteer on a free Wednesday afternoon, or maybe they are looking for a specific window each week. And depending on their availability, they might drive somebody who lives on a nearby street or in their neighborhood on a regular basis.
Is there anything that has surprised you about operating Senior Ride Nashville?
The most wonderful byproduct of this transportation service is that it allows meaningful relationships to form between riders and drivers. We often see volunteers make repeat trips with the same riders. We have some who have paired up because they have made a connection and want to spend that time together. So while individuals are able to maintain their independence and stay connected to the community, they are also able to form meaningful relationships in the process.
What plans does the organization have going forward?
We’re taking a staggered approach so that we can get into each community and build a volunteer core. Our long-term goal is to continue this gradual expansion until we offer the service countywide. Instead of adding more service areas this year, we’re strategically planning the timeline and geographical areas for 2019 and beyond. The ultimate goal is to have this service countywide, but we can't do it without the community support.
Dylan Skye Aycock is a Nashville-based journalist and photographer. As a reporter for Rover, Aycock follows transportation, housing and retail trends, as well as other hyperlocal and city-wide issues that affect residents in Green Hills and Belle Meade.
She previously contributed written and visual content to The Murfreesboro Pulse, American Songwriter Magazine and The Tennessean. Aycock earned a journalism degree from Middle Tennessee State University, where she honed her craft as editor-in-chief of Sidelines, the university's student-run publication. When she's not out on assignment or live-tweeting city council meetings, you can find her discovering new local spots or catching a show at one of Nashville's many music venues.