UCLA School of Public Health Field Studies Program


Community Health Sciences

Field Placement: Center for Healthy Aging
Location:
Santa Monica, CA
Preceptor:
Ellen Blackman
Student Name: Katie Maggard
Year: 2005

This summer I worked at the Center for Healthy Aging (CHA) in Santa Monica with Ellen Blackman to plan and develop a project called ITNSantaMonica™. The perfect internship combined my interest in public transportation with an important issue affecting older adults: the decision to stop driving. Moving from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat can be traumatic. Personal automobiles are symbols of independence. They offer freedom, control, convenience, and social interaction. Older adults experiencing age-related changes that compromise their safety may continue to drive because they see no equal alternative to owning and piloting their own vehicle. Public transportation may be difficult to navigate or limited, forcing many older people to become dependent on family and friends. Some older adults facing this decision may continue to drive, but with self imposed restrictions. Self-restrictions, such as driving only during the day or decreasing one’s radius of travel, are great for public health and public safety, and in general they are thought of as a solution when there are no other alternatives. Self-restriction however, is not good for the older person; it is the same as not going out as much as before. Similarly, it is like breathing less when the pollution gets bad.

With financial support from the Wilshire Foundation, I assisted the CHA prepare to launch the first replication of the Independent Transportation Network (ITN®), a new member of the transit family that supplements existing options. A community-based, non-profit transportation service for seniors operating in Portland, Maine for ten years, ITN® mimics private vehicle ownership by using automobiles and both paid and volunteer drivers to provide service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Seniors who use the service become dues paying members and open personal transportation accounts to pay for their rides. The program is self-sustaining via innovative payment programs and voluntary local community support, without relying on taxpayer dollars. With support from the Archstone Foundation, the CHA is bringing this program to seniors in the greater Santa Monica area.

My role following-up with media contacts, researching dealership laws, automobile insurance policy and licensure regulations, expanding the stakeholder list, creating lists of frequently asked questions, and assisting with the public forum helped to move the replication project forward. The first ITNSantaMonica™ public forum, held at Emeritus College in September, attracted nearly 70 people from the community. ITN® creator, Katherine Freund, and members of theITNSantaMonica™ team spoke at this event, as did County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Because of this internship, I have been invited to the ITNAmerica™ National Summit held in Maine this October. Also, I now have an opportunity to pursue research visualizing the phases of older adult mobility.

 

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