A volunteer program for older adults, Rides in Your Neighbors Cars, has seen an increase in ridership over the past few years.

The program started in 2014 with a group of volunteers who wanted to help older adults with disabilities by matching people who need a ride with people willing to give a ride.

Rides are provided free to Bowdoinham and Bowdoin residents age 60 and above.

According to the program’s yearly report, ridership has grown in the past three years. In 2019, the volunteer drivers provided 251 trips that took 627 hours and covered 10,332 miles. In 2020, the drivers provided 211 trips, and 254 trips have been provided so far in 2021.

Diana Mosher, Rides in Neighbors Cars program coordinator, said though there was a drop in the number of rides in 2020, they did not stop providing rides or shut down.

“We were one of the few groups that were active even during the COVID 19 pandemic,” said Mosher. “We would do grocery shopping for people, and we would take them to their medical appointments. We did not stop working even though we were only three of us giving rides during the pandemic.”

Though rides are free, some clients give donations, which, Mosher said, goes into an account used for program expenses.

They have eight volunteers, but this number varies every month.

“In April, we had seven clients and seven drivers. While our client numbers have increased, our active driver list had varied between six and eight drivers,” Meg Zellinger, a volunteer driver, said. “Due to our outreach efforts, we added a new driver in September and four new drives are in the process of joining.”

Zellinger added that it is essential to have transportation if the elderly or people with disabilities want to age in rural communities like Bowdoinham and Bowdoin, especially when they don’t have relatives living nearby.

“We love our community, and we want our residents to be able to continue living here, as independently as they can, for how long as they want,” said Zellinger. “Through our conversations over time during our ride, we get to know our clients, and we become like family to them. Our lives are richer for it.”

Bowdoinham’s population is 3,091 people, according to the 2020 census. The population increased steadily between 2010 and 2019, with about 20 new homes per year and a population increase of about 100 people.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons, it is expected that by 2030, 30% of Bowdoinham’s residents will be aged 60 and above.

While the program is run in two towns, Mosher said they do not plan to expand their services to other towns as they feel they can only handle this much.

For information about rides, contact Diana Mosher at (207) 837-9571.

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