Transportation is freedom; freedom to do things you need and want to do. When that is taken away, due to age or other factors, it can leave a person in a state of disconnect, feeling as though they’ve lost control of the order of life’s activities. Castle Rock is home to a non-profit that is giving local seniors, and adults with disabilities, back some independence.
The Senior Shuttle has been providing five areas of Douglas County, and their residents, with door to door service. “We give one-way transport to seniors and adult-disabled in Sedalia, Castle Pines, Castle Rock, Larkspur and Louviers,” commented Rich Smoski, Castle Rock Senior Center Board President. “We do roughly 700 rides a month.”
The majority of riders, who come from Castle Rock and Castle Pines, are taken to their destination at no charge. “Most of our funding comes from Douglas County and the Town of Castle Rock – and we suggest to people (riders) to make a donation to our donation box,” Smoski. While many provide a minimal amount to help with gas and Senior Shuttle upkeep, if they don’t have anything to give, they won’t be turned away.
Riders need only meet a few simple qualifications. They should either have reached the age of 50 or older, or be living with a disability that doesn’t allow them to drive independently. “For senior rides (specifically), our policy doesn’t allow us to differentiate between members and non-members (of the senior center), but age-wise, we’d like them to be at least 50 or older,” noted Debbi Haynie, Senior Center Executive Director. “Our main focus is to keep seniors loving life in the second half.”
Once residents fall into the designated pool, they are picked up at their location and shuttled to their destination. “People are taken in an order of priority: 1. Medical, 2. Nutritional needs/groceries and 3. Local priority,” Smoski said. “Local places and activity include things like: I wanna play a game, go to a movie, visit the library or go to get to get my hair done.”
The center likewise offers riders the use of their specialized vehicle, known as an NV1. Purchased with grant funds, it has the ability to accommodate a driver, two wheelchairs and two passengers. Members also have access to a wheelchair accessible van for numerous group activities that include monthly trips to the casino.
Changes on the Horizon
Douglas County now has the fastest growing ‘county’ population in Colorado. With no end in sight, this growth has caused the number of residents 65 and older to increase nearly twofold; Douglas County seniors now make up 7.1% of the population, compared to 4.2% in 2000. According to the latest demographic survey from the county, that number is expected to increase to 20% by 2030.
Due to the measured changes, the Castle Rock Senior Center transportation program recently experienced a decrease in funding from the county. “We did have some reduction of funding this year,” Smoski continued, “There were places that weren’t getting those kinds of funds, areas like Parker. They had to divide the pie up differently because Douglas County is growing.”
However, Smoski is remaining optimistic that they will find additional funding to close the gap. “We’re not cutting our services,” he smiled “We want to continue the program and were going to try to find a way.” Reaching that ultimate goal means continuing to apply for more grants and hoping more donations come in to keep the service in operation.
“What I always say about the senior center- being in my six year of driving – if you had a chance to interview some of these people they would say ‘I don’t know what we would do without this center and without the transportation program,'” commented Smoski. “The truth is, a lot would be sitting at home staring at the T.V. or waiting for a kids to get off work.”
So as they wait to see what the future holds, Smoski plans to continue to enjoy his fun, part-time gig; giving seniors and adult disabled back their mobility. “People ask what I do in retirement and I say, ‘Most often, I drive Miss Daisy.'”
Castle Rock Senior Center
2323 Woodlands Blvd.
Castle Rock, CO 80104
**On Thursday, September 10, the Castle Rock Senior Center will be hosting their 15th Annual co-ed Golf Tournament at Red Hawk Ridge Golf Course along with a big craft fair, at the Douglas County Events Center, on November 7**