The public-private National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC) announced a grant of nearly $50,000 to Hernando to develop and test practical and sustainable innovations to expand access by older adults to needed community services, including health, nutrition, fitness, socialization and other programs.
The DeSoto County seat was among only six organizations in five states that received an NADTC Innovations in Transportation Grant; dozens competed for some $300,000 total available.
Hernando has made strides in improving transportation resources by implementing a Complete Streets policy accommodating all modes of transportation, including automotive, pedestrian and bicycle, with the goal of being a more walkable and bikeable community. The NADTC Innovations in Transportation Grant will boost this progress by helping provide transportation to seniors who do not have access to or do not have the capability to drive.
"If transportation is holding seniors back from participating in all that Hernando has to offer, then this segment of our population does not benefit," said Mayor Chip Johnson. "Senior transportation makes it easier for older residents to stay connected and remain socially engaged."
The NADTC is funded through a cooperative agreement of the Easterseals, formerly Easter Seals, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration, with guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Community Living. NADTC's mission is to increase accessible transportation options, especially for the elderly and disabled and their caregivers.
"The grant will enhance our quality of life, especially for our seniors," said Gia Matheny, Hernando Community Development Director. "Hernando will have an opportunity to create a model for combining transportation and nutrition services by expanding transportation to our Farmers Market on Saturdays and to currently unserved destinations.
"It's important that all citizens have access to activities and programs which improve their physical and mental health," said Matheny.
In Hernando, these include the nutritious fruits and vegetables available at the Hernando Farmers Market on Saturdays around the DeSoto Courthouse square in downtown Hernando, doubling SNAP dollars through the AARP Fresh Savings program and using the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers. Also, there's the free senior fitness classes for the "Young at Heart" group at the Gale Community Center, plus "Young at Heart" social gatherings at the Shepherd's Center, and opportunities to attend movies and visit local parks.
"These activities have a positive impact on our seniors' overall well-being," said Matheny.
"Local transportation provides the critical link to health care, employment and other community services, decreases social isolation and enhances connections to family, friends and the community at large," said Sandy Markwood, Chief Executive Office of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.
"Easterseals' mission has long focused on supporting individuals with disabilities of all ages in their efforts to reach their personal goals, whether that means getting to work, staying healthy, or being able to share more time with family and friends," said Katy Neas, Easterseals Executive Vice President of Public Affairs. "We're excited that the NADTC's accessible mobility innovations grants will provide more transportation opportunities for people to make connections, partake in community events, and engage in life-enhancing activities."
The other grantees are the Area Agency on Biking in Southfield, Mich.; the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission in Pittsfield, Mass.; Mountain Empire Senior Citizens in Big Stone Gap, Va.; and in Ohio, Peace Village/Cancer Justice Institute in Cincinnati and Senior Transportation Connection in Cleveland.
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) is a 501c(3) membership association representing America's national network of 622 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and providing a voice in the nation's capital for the 256 Title VI Native American aging programs. The mission of n4a is to build the capacity of its members so they can better help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity and choices in their homes and communities for as long as possible. Visit www.n4a.org for more information.
For nearly a century, Easterseals has been a major resource for people and families challenged by disabilities. Easterseals offers hands-on programs through a network of affiliates to help people of all ages reach their full potential through development and life-skills learning, workforce training and placement services, and fun, healthy recreation programs for children, adults, and caregivers. For more about Easterseals and services in communities nationwide, visit www.easterseals.com.
For more information about Hernando transportation options, contact Gia Matheny at 662-429-9092.
Henry Bailey is Contributing Writer and Copy Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 662-429-6397, Ext. 241.