Age Friendly Saco Executive Director Jean Saunders (far right) stands with volunteers and city officials at a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the group’s new shuttle program. Eloise Goldsmith photo

SACO —It was all smiles at the Saco Transportation Center Nov. 29 as Age Friendly Saco officially launched their latest transportation program, the Saco Mobility Shuttle. City officials including Saco City Administrator John Bohenko and Councilor Phil Hatch attended the ribbon ceremony cutting.

The door-to-door shuttle began providing rides on Oct. 23 and furthers the mission of Age Friendly Saco —to keep the city “a community for a lifetime” and help older residents remain in their homes as they age.

The newly launched ride service will provide transportation to Walmart, Market Basket, Target, Hannaford and Shaws on set days of the week, but riders can also call ahead to schedule a ride to a longer list of locations, including Dyer Library, Saco Community Center, Saco Main Street businesses, and the YMCA. Riders must schedule a seat on the shuttle 48 hours in advance.

The service currently runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. — though the group hopes to expand service as ridership grows. There are currently fewer than 10 people on the shuttle’s rider roster, but the group expects the list to grow as they do outreach.

Interested riders can call the Saco Mobility Shuttle at 207-710-8527 to schedule a ride or learn more.

Age Friendly Saco, which launched in 2016, has run a more limited free ride service to drive residents to and from medical appointments since 2022.


Jean Saunders, the executive director of Age Friendly Saco, said community focus groups with older community members revealed an urgent need for greater mobility. Saunders said it was “stunning” to hear the challenges some of them faced doing routine activities — for example, crossing multiple highways with an assistive device to do a grocery run. “One person described how she could only take two bags of groceries, one for each handle of her walker,” said Saunders.

The group was able to launch the program with the support of multiple grants, including a Community Challenge Grant from AARP. The service has two shuttle drivers — volunteers David Steed and Dennis Ford. The bus was donated to Age Friendly Saco from BSOOB Transit. Diane Ford, a local Saco resident, works as a coordinator for the ride service.

Currently, the shuttle is free. According to materials from Age Friendly Saco, the service will switch to using “an affordable 20-ride punch card” once the initial roll-out phase of the shuttle is complete. More information about cost and the punch card is forthcoming, according to the pamphlet.

Age Friendly Saco is a part of AARP’s network of age-friendly states and communities. In 2015, then incoming Mayor Ron Michaud launched an effort to become an age-friendly community and Saco was accepted into AARP’s network the following year. In 2018, Age Friendly Saco became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and now has a board of directors.

Neighboring Biddeford is also an AARP age-friendly community. This fall, the group Age Friendly Biddeford launched its own ridership program for residents who need help getting to medical appointments.

Saunders said that the organization supports not just greater mobility for the elderly, but a more holistic revamp of public transportation. “We need a transportation system that is flexible, agile, and meets demand,” she said, calling the area’s current public transit out of date and inaccessible.

Saunders identified “on demand, uber-like public transit” systems that look similar to what Age Friendly Saco currently provides as a solution for Maine — highlighting, for example, a microtransit pilot program that launched in Montpelier, Vermont, in 2021. The service provides flexible route, flexible schedule shuttle service for local Vermonters.



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