Age Friendly Saco Volunteer Transportation Coordinator Linda Verville of AmeriCorps and John Savona, a Saco resident who uses the program to get to medical appointments, share a laugh on a recent day. Tammy Wells Photo

SACO — John Savona stopped driving about five months ago. The Saco resident is quite accomplished when it comes to using public transportation to get where he needs to go — his youth was spent in New York, where options abound — but there are times when getting to and from medical appointments can be difficult.

Sometimes public transportation schedules just do not jive with the availability of appointments, he said.

Now, Savona, 79, and other Saco residents who are 65 and older have another way to get there.

Enter Age Friendly Saco Volunteer Transportation. By the end of April, the program, established in mid-February, had provided more than 40 rides to people with medical appointments in locations from Kennebunk to Portland.

Saco residents Ingrid and Edgar Canavan use the Age Friendly Saco Volunteer Transportation program to get to medical appointments. Family members say it helps the couple maintain their independence. Courtesy Photo/Age Friendly Saco

The program could help many more of Saco’s older non-drivers get to medical appointments if there were more volunteer drivers, said Age Friendly Saco Director Jean Saunders. So far, there are four, plus two AmeriCorps volunteers who arrange appointments and drive as well.

Savona, who stopped driving because of a medical condition, said he sometimes relies on his daughter, who lives a couple of towns away, or upon friends to get him to medical appointments that do not align well with public transportation. Sometimes, he said, an appointment like a recent one for removal of some stitches — a quick procedure — would have meant a 1 1/2-hour wait for a bus to get home, so he called Age Friendly Saco Volunteer Transportation to help, and they did.


For errands other than medical appointments, Savona uses public transportation, walks if the destination is nearby or relies on family and friends.

Savona, now a user of the Age Friendly transportation program, started a similar program in Winthrop in the late 1970s, and later was a volunteer driver for FISH transportation for seniors organized by The Center in Kennebunk.

The program helps make the lives of her elderly parents as independent as possible, said the daughter of Saco couple, Edgar and Ingrid Canavan. Lydia Canavan said her parents have taken advantage of the Age Friendly Saco Volunteer Transportation program and are glad to have it.

“It’s been a Godsend,” said Lydia, who said her parents, both in their 90s, like to be independent as possible. The couple moved to southern Maine a couple of years ago from the midcoast, where they were active — and they have been, in their Saco neighborhood, where they took daily walks and the like, and Ingrid continued to cook three meals a day until a fall a week ago.

Neither of her parents are driving now, said Lydia, and all of their children live out of state, so the couple depends on services — like the supermarkets that deliver — and Age Friendly Saco Volunteer Transporation.

“It helps them live independently,” said Lydia, who said she and her siblings take turns coming to Maine to help their parents each month.


Saunders said the program is for everyone in Saco 65 and older.

Saunders and others, like Linda Verville of AmeriCorps, the programs transportation coordinator, who also drives people to their appointments, are hoping more volunteers will step up to drive, and they are planning to host a volunteer driver orientation soon.

“It’s hard for people to understand” how challenging it can be to accomplish relatively simple tasks when driving yourself is no longer an option, said Saunders, adding one of Age Friendly Saco’s goals is to make sure people are aware of the need.

Verville said if she wasn’t organizing schedules and driving older people to their appointments, she would not have seen the barriers older people who don’t drive have in getting where they need to go.

Prospective drivers — and those who need a ride to a medical appointment — may call Age Friendly Saco Volunteer Transportation at 200-7668 and leave a message. Riders are asked to call five days in advance for scheduling.

Saunders recalled a 2017 survey about how tasks get accomplished when people no longer drive — it is not something often thought about, she noted.

“People assume they’re going to drive forever,” she said. “We’re trying to raise the consciousness level.”

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