Providence Seaside connects seniors with community

When you're younger, it's something you take for granted: being able to hop in the car and get to your destination. But when you're older and can no longer drive, it's easy to feel stuck, dependent on others and increasingly isolated – especially in a smaller community with few mass transit options.

But thanks to the Partners for Seniors Transportation Program operated by Providence Seaside Hospital, north coast seniors have regained their freedom through a free ride program. Last year, the program's more than 5,600 volunteers drove 16,000 miles on 800 trips – all along the north coast, from Arch Cape to Astoria. Drivers take seniors to doctor appointments, the bank, grocery store, post office, friends' houses, senior community activities, and more.

One grateful senior, a woman named Betty, said without her Partners for Seniors trips, the highlight of her day would be going to the mailbox. Instead, she enjoys friendly conversation with her volunteer drivers and can get to important appointments and events.

"Researchers see a connection between a senior's physical and mental health. When they feel isolated and lonely, they can become distraught or depressed," said Elizabeth Bunce, director of the volunteer program at Providence Seaside. "Knowing they can call for a free ride when they need it gives them peace of mind."

And that's enough to boost any senior's spirits.