Amherst Senior Center eyes revival of transportation service

  • Hayley Bolton, Director of the Bernardston Senior Center, with vouchers for the Salvation Army. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/30/2022 5:21:06 PM
Modified: 11/30/2022 5:20:51 PM

AMHERST — The Amherst Senior Center’s efforts to revive transportation services for senior citizens received a boost this week when the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority donated a retired paratransit van, equipped with a lift, to the center.

With van service suspended during the pandemic, and relying on a van that was no longer able to meet the requirements of all senior citizens, Senior Center Director Hayley Bolton recently undertook an effort to restore the service for elders needing rides to medical appointments, and to ensure transport for all nonambulatory passengers.

Bolton said having the van from the PVTA, and eventually hiring a driver to operate it, will allow for greater stability in the van service being offered, and keep a new transportation option of giving rides to individuals with mobility challenges viable.

“Once the medical ride program officially resumes in the coming months, we will be able to transport passengers who use a wheelchair or walker,” Bolton said.

In the past, senior citizens have depended on PVTA’s paratransit and dial-a-ride service, though that has come at a cost, with the town subsidize the service to reduce out-of-pocket expenses for senior citizens.

Amherst has 5,200 residents 60 and older and has long made efforts to offer them transportation, though not always with success.

In 2014, then Senior Center Director Nancy Pagano discussed resuming the “Senior Surrey,” a program that ran from the Bangs Community Center from 1972 to 1996. At the height of that program, five vehicles were dispatched and traveled around to pick up people in Amherst, Shutesbury, Pelham and Leverett. That discussion came at a time when the only van service had volunteers driving senior citizens to a grocery store once a week.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer more transportation options to our vibrant community of older adults,” Bolton said.

The PVTA van was picked up by Julia MacFadzen, volunteer and outreach coordinator at the center; Dick Yourga, president of the Friends of the Amherst Senior Center; and volunteer Mike Gralenski.

Once the new van service is in place, the Senior Center will advertise it in the Senior Spirit newsletter, on the town website, and in a press release, so people will know how to book rides.

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