Canadian car service offers daily rides, companionship to seniors
An Alberta company is offering to fill the void felt by many seniors who can no longer drive or get a ride from family, by offering them a friendly lift whenever they need it.
Driving Miss Daisy was created over a decade ago to offer shuttle services for seniors still living on their own. But it is more than just a taxi service. Workers help seniors perform their daily tasks, such as grocery shopping or escorting them to doctors' appointments, while also offering general companionship.
"When you hire traditional transportation, you hire a driver with a car. With (Driving) Miss Daisy, you hire a caregiver that comes with a car," said Bob Doornenbal, the company's marking and development director.
The service started in Calgary in 2002, and is now available in over 40 cities, including Peterborough, Ont., where the company is set to add a fourth car to its local fleet in order to meet growing demand.
Jack May, 87, is one of the company's customers in the city, 125 kilometres northeast of Toronto. May's driver helps take him to his Alzheimer's day program.
His wife, Bev, signed on with Driving Miss Daisy because she was struggling to concentrate on her driving with her husband in the passenger seat.
"Having Jack in the car, I found it distracting. I wasn't watching … so it was kind of dangerous," she said.
She added she feels confident in the company's ability to look after her husband.
"When you hand your loved one over to someone in a car, you have to feel they are going to care for them. And they do," Bev said.
Driving Miss Daisy charges based on the total amount of time spent with the customer.
In May's case, that's $21 a day for a drop off and a drive home from his day program. In total, it costs the family $300 a month.
Shirley Moorefield, 80, who also relies on the service, pays roughly the same amount for several monthly visits to help her get to appointments, do her grocery shopping and even grab some fish and chips when she's in the mood.
"They know me so well. They put (away) my groceries. (Doornenbal) changes my light bulbs and even hung a curtain," she said.
Doornenbal said that Driving Miss Daisy can offer companionship to its clients, many of whom don't drive at all and feel trapped in their own homes.
"When aging adults lose their license, it can be traumatic and isolating," he said. "That's hard for them. Governments are doing their best to keep seniors at … home for as long as possible, and we can help prevent that social isolation."
These concerns have given rise to a host of similar programs that offer companionship, cooking and even downsizing services.
But some advocates worry that personalized-care services, like Driving Miss Daisy, may be out reach for low-income seniors.
"Many people are unable to afford that service, and without that there are few options," said Susan Eng, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Retired People.
"Taxis are few and far between, and then you are at the mercy of the public transit system," she added.
Eng said this highlights the need for more programs that help keep seniors on the move and in the community during their golden years.
"I don't think we are prepared. There are lots of people finding their worlds are getting smaller because they can't get out," she said.
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip