A couple of times a week, Sara Stewart drives to the home of an elderly man named Richard. She helps him into the car, then takes him to doctors’ appointments or to the grocery store. Also on their list of stops: Coffee.
“There for a while we were trying to figure out what the best coffee was. He’s decided it’s McDonald’s,” Stewart says with a laugh.
Stewart, a volunteer for Senior Ride Nashville, says that what started out as a four-hour-a-month commitment has, over 120 trips, turned into a friendship. Volunteers for SRN use an online portal to select rides that work with their schedule, location, or interest.
“It’s become such an experience for both of us,” she says. Stewart supports Richard in ways big and small — from helping him with his grocery list to reaching out to his city council member to advocate for improved sidewalks near his home.
“I’m always there for Richard, no matter what he needs,” Stewart says.
That doesn’t surprise Carrie Brumfield, SRN’s executive director.
“We often hear the phrase, ‘It’s more than just a ride’ from our volunteer drivers,” she says.
Brumfield says reduced mobility can put a person at higher risk of poor health, isolation, loneliness, and depression, and that Nashville’s lack of public transportation options means many seniors may experience reduced life expectancy as a result.
Stewart, who’s been driving for the organization since its inception, says that she initially was drawn to act when she realized how isolating it would be to not have access to transportation. She said once it dawned on her that she might someday be in that same situation, she knew she had to do something.
“Pay it forward,” Stewart says. “It’s not even really a payment, because you get it back immediately.”
To find out more about volunteering as a driver, or to learn about other ways to help Senior Ride Nashville, click here.
Photos provided by Senior Ride Nashville