Published On: Fri, Sep 6th, 2019

Golden Agers Regain Their Freedom to Travel, Thanks to “Uncle Bob”

C. Ron Allen

Boca Raton, FL – While it may take a village to raise a child, some Lake Delray Apartment residents and staff are discovering that it also takes a village to support the senior citizens population.

When Palm Tran discontinued the bus that served the residents because of poor ridership last September, it sent them into a tizzy.

“The loss of the bus stole the independence from a lot of our residents,” property manager Craig Kaitin told me this week. “It also impacted their social lives.”

Over the past 100 years, the automobile and the independence it affords have literally changed the world. Many of the 465 residents – in their 70s, 80s and 90s – do not have their own transportation. So, if they can’t get out, they are stuck in their apartments, Kaitin added.

Immobility can lead to depression and isolation, both of which are proven to be detrimental to seniors’ health.

Many said that for the past 10 months they had to rely on friends or relatives to take them to the grocery store, which, after a while, was not the most comfortable thing to do.

It’s no surprise why it can be so devastating for many seniors who lose the privilege to drive.

Many of the 465 residents – in their 70s, 80s and 90s – do not have their own transportation. So, if they can’t get out, they are stuck in their apartments, “And we have a lot of events and people could not get to it,” Kaitin said.

Such was the case until Delray Beach Housing Authority board member Ezra Krieg reached out to Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth, who happens to be Boca Raton’s own. Weinroth, who represents eastern Boca Raton, also is the commissioner the area of the city where Lake Delray is.

Ironically, Lake Delray and Palm Tran big wigs met in the past to iron things out, but “they were not interested in changing anything,” Kaitin said. “Palm Tran is a for profit business, and I understand that….”

After an impasse, they called on “Uncle Bob” and as usual, he worked his magic. The residents got a small van from Palm Tran, capable of transporting eight passengers including two in wheelchairs.

The van is now a welcome relief to the residents, some of whom had to walk as far as ¾ of a mile from their building to the bus stop.

The service, which is for Lake Delray Apartment residents, will shuttle residents to the Publix, Walgreens and WalMart on South Federal Highway between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays.

“Pleased to be able to announce the launch of a pilot mobility program. The new shopper shuttle is providing the community with access to neighboring retail businesses and fixed route stops,” read a post on Weinroth’s Facebook page. “Palm Tran is viewing this pilot as an opportunity to determine how best to service residents who aren’t able to access the fixed route public transportation from their residences.”

In April, county officials broke ground for their expanded $25 million Palm Tran headquarters in Delray Beach. The project will feature nine charging stations for fully electric, zero emissions buses, which could and would make Palm Tran among the leading companies in the area to have a fleet of electric buses.

With Palm Tran leading the way with electric buses, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see autonomous shuttles in Lake Delray or other retirement communities. After all, they are already being used to ferry people in industrial complexes, shopping centers and airports around the country.

Given this technology, self-driving shuttles could be a perfect fit for retirement communities, which have low speed limits and predictable routes — say, from the pool to the dining hall or even from the community’s club house to nearby shopping or restaurants.

C. Ron Allen can be reached at crallen@Delraybeachtribune.com or 561-665-0151.

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