When Emily Spelde, director of older adult ministry at Calvary Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, Ind., attended one of IndyGo's travel training programs for service providers, she had no idea her church's first senior excursion on the public bus system would end up being a surprise party in her honor.
After Spelde, four of her friends and 12 of her elderly clients hopped aboard an IndyGo bus heading for downtown Indianapolis this past May, she soon found herself — and everyone else — donning a birthday hat and blowing on noisemakers to celebrate her birthday.
"I have some crazy, wonderful friends and work with some awesome seniors," said Spelde. "I was definitely surprised."
Spelde, who was previously unfamiliar with the IndyGo bus service, felt it was necessary to participate in one of the bus company's travel training programs because of high gas prices and the fact her church's seniors are driving less.
"IndyGo's travel training made me feel confident in leading my seniors on a day trip riding the bus," she noted. "The training also made me feel smarter about the company as a whole and proud of what they are doing to upgrade their buses."
According to Spelde, everyone had a great time riding the bus on her birthday. Several of the seniors had not ridden the bus in more than 20 years. Many were impressed with the cleanliness of the bus and how easy the bus pass system worked. As a result, they talked about taking their grandkids on the bus and heading to downtown Indianapolis with a friend in the near future — exactly what IndyGo had hoped for when introducing its travel training program.
"We want to empower seniors to participate in the community and the economy," said Samantha Cross, director of business development for IndyGo. "After all, research shows that when compared to older drivers, older non-drivers make fewer trips to the doctor, fewer shopping trips and visits to restaurants and fewer trips for social, family and religious activities."
In an IndyGo travel training workshop, service providers learn about trip planning, maps and schedules, various bus functions and features as well as receive a company overview. IndyGo also discusses its Open Door paratransit service and taxi voucher program that serves the needs of riders who, because of a disability, may require an alternative to fixed route bus service.