In recent years, PrimeLife Enrichment senior center in Carmel has narrowed its efforts to focus on two areas that encompass “what we do best,” according to Executive Director Gary Wagner.
The nonprofit is committed to offering a variety of programs and services that foster health and community at its Carmel facility, Wagner said, and it has greatly expanded its transportation program, which provides rides – often at no cost – to seniors in Hamilton County and a few locations beyond.
PrimeLife, which is at 1078 3rd Ave. SW in Carmel, averaged 613 rides per month from September 2022 through February 2023. Since then, it’s averaging more than 920 rides per month, and Wagner is expecting PrimeLife will provide up to 13,000 rides this fiscal year – a more than 50 percent jump from the previous fiscal year.
PrimeLife operates the transportation program at a financial loss, Wagner said, but he believes it is a crucial service to offer in a county without many public transportation options.
“It is so critical. We’re probably committed to it stronger than ever before. If we took it away, then somehow it would fall upon the community – the county, city or whoever else – to figure out how we can accommodate the transportation needs of seniors,” he said. “Otherwise, they are going to be isolated, and isolation leads to depression. That’s something we try to resolve.”
Sandy Fortier, a Carmel resident who can’t drive because of poor vision, uses the PrimeLife transportation service frequently for rides to the senior center, medical appointments, a library book club and more.
“(Using a ride share service) can be expensive, and not seeing well, how could I tell whether it was the Uber car?” she said. “I wouldn’t want to get into a car with a stranger.”
PrimeLife volunteer driver Randy Gomez is frequently scheduled to drive Fortier to her destinations, and they have enjoyed getting to know each other along the way.
Gomez, a Carmel resident and self-described “early retiree,” began driving for PrimeLife as a way to serve and stay connected to the community. He said he enjoys the flexibility and opportunity to meet new people and hear their stories.
“I’ve made a lot of friends,” said Gomez, who drives twice a week and recently became a PrimeLife board member. “I have my regulars, and Sandy is one of my regulars.”
PrimeLife is looking to recruit more drivers. Some, like Gomez, choose to volunteer their time, while others are paid $11 per hour. All drivers receive CPR training and instruction on how to operate the vans and help riders – including those in wheelchairs – safely get in and out. They must also pass a background check and have a valid driver’s license.
PrimeLife uses software to efficiently schedule rides and provide navigation for drivers. Riders must leave a voicemail with PrimeLife to request a ride, preferably at least a week in advance. With the growing number of ride requests, PrimeLife recently implemented a waitlist for the first time.
Cindy Schdembre, PrimeLife assistant director, said many other transportation programs in Hamilton County have scaled back or are too expensive for many seniors.
“Every year, there are more and more people that fall into the category where either they can’t afford to drive or they can’t drive,” she said. “More and more seniors are living alone and don’t have someone they can ask to drive them.”
Learn more about the transportation program and other services offered by PrimeLife at PrimeLifeEnrichment.org.
Request a ride
PrimeLife Enrichment offers door-to-door, non-emergency transportation to any Hamilton County resident 50 years or older in wheelchair accessible vans.
Schedule a ride by calling the PrimeLife transportation coordinator at 317-815-7000 extension 205, preferably at least a week in advance. Be ready to provide the following information:
- First and last name of rider and any caregivers riding along
- Date and time of appointment
- Expected duration of appointment
- Name and address of destination
- Relevant information regarding ambulatory needs
Rides are free if they are within 8 miles of a client’s home for those 60 and older for essential trips, which includes rides to medical appointments, pharmacies and the grocery store, although a $10 donation is appreciated. Trips beyond 8 miles cost $10 round trip, regardless of age. Nonessential trips cost $10 within 8 miles and $16 beyond that, regardless of age. Military veterans may receive a roundtrip ride to the VA Hospital in Indianapolis or Brownsburg for $10.
*Source: PrimeLife Enrichment