Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ask the Expert – Judi Bonilla, Travel Trainer at We Get Around! In San Diego, California

Travel trainer and gerontologist, Judi Bonilla shares her insights on travel training and why it is so important for older adults.
1. Tell us about your travel training program.
We Get Around!  is a volunteer organization with a vision to improve the quality of life for San Diego's senior community. We’ve created a small group travel training program led by an experienced travel trainer that combines travel instruction, brain health information, and low-impact fitness.
The class is taught in the field using fixed-route buses and trolleys. Local landmarks are incorporated into class destinations, providing students exposure to a variety of travel patterns and community diversity. The class begins with a trip briefing, learning topic, and handouts so students can recreate the trip independently. Lessons include purchasing tickets, using accessibility services, personal safety, transit etiquette, and trip planning. The focus is to provide an environment where an adult learner can develop and practice the skills needed to travel independently.
We Get Around! is a volunteer-led program and receives no funding from city, state or local public transportation entities.
2. What got you interested in this line of work?
I am a gerontologist and early on saw the benefits travel training can offer older adults. In the field of aging, our work is focused on the principles of successful aging and aging in place. Transportation is a critical issue for older adults and their families.  This program fills both a social need and gap in the public transit infrastructure for the residents of San Diego. Prior to We Get Around!, there was no travel training program serving the  San Diego area.
3. Why do you believe travel training for seniors is so important?
Travel training is a great tool to use as older adults begin to decrease how far they drive, regulate where they drive, and when they drive. Having the “What Happens When I Can No Longer Drive” and the “Giving Up The Car Keys” conversations are tough for families and health care providers. Travel training is an excellent solution when exploring alternatives to driving. Research has shown that social interaction offers older adults many benefits. Staying socially active and maintaining interpersonal relationships can help maintain good physical and emotional health and cognitive function. One report found that men and women ages 60 to 80 reported that taking a short walk just three times a week increased the size of brain regions linked to planning and memory over the course of a year. Linking the use of public transportation to better health outcomes is another way elders can benefit from travel training
4. How do you address caregiver or family concerns when working with older adults?
Students of the program are self-referred and run the range of physical abilities. Some use mobility aids while other have complete mobility. At the first class orientation, students and caregivers learn how classes are researched, planned, and tested. We welcome a family member or caregiver to attend the first class with the students. Often the caregiver or adult child gets as much from the class as the student! In addition, we post class trips to YouTube and often tweet live on our trips. 
5. How do health and wellness tie into public transportation for the population you work with?
This is one of the most exciting aspects of travel training. I recently presented a poster at the 2014 American Society on Aging Conference. The poster was titled Shifting the Image of Public Transportation from Have To...To Want To! With over 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day the need to improve health at every age is increasingly important. Recently, the Alzheimer’s Association included in its recommendations to stay socially connected, and exercise both body and mind. Travel training makes a powerful connection to all three!

1 comment:

  1. I was provided your link via Mobility Works as they have tried to finance me a mobility vehicle due to my Disabilities and limitations , they said that their are financial Grants available for those who have this great need and who qualify for it which I do and I am so glad to have been referred to your site it's very encouraging to see so many positive changes and given hope for a variety of things that will help such a large community of individuals with various disabilities or needs that can be found here to help and even if for some reason your not able to help with one area there are obviously many other areas you can and do give aide to the Elderly and others who seek to improve quality of life and independent living regardless of age ! I look forward to being not just a hopeful receiver of your help but to give back to my community too! Such as supplying rides to other friends and elderly ones I know and live near to who no longer drive or can drive and need help in remaining busy within their community and not sitting at home alone and being depressed because they aren't socially active or participating in interaction with friends and family! I understand this very well with my disability and being stuck at home when a mobility vehicle would increase my social and personal independence greatly and aid my community! I love people and being of service too, I would like to return to work but my Doctors say that the stress upon my body and my various disabilities other than the permanent physical disability limits me in many job functions necessary for such independence! I never give up and if I had been the type to give up I wouldn't be here today still fighting to remain as a fellow giver and help to my community and even within my large apartment complex I do reach out and try to help the various ones here in great need of a variety of services and needs so that they are not feeling alone and uncared for! Many of us too as we age lose family and friends whether by death or they move or just stop coming around when they see your limitations as depressing to see! So it's important to keep ourselves busy and functioning and involved somehow someway! I hope we all can encourage one another to never give up freedom of independence and helping others in need! PF