SMiles Senior Transportation
- Need: To provide transportation to rural seniors who are no longer able to drive.
- Intervention: SMiles, a rural senior transportation program, was implemented in Blount County, Tennessee.
- Results: Since 2013, SMiles has provided over 35,000 rides to its rural seniors.
Blount County, Tennessee, has limited options for low-cost transportation, and the issue of transportation among people 60 or older was named a high priority at a 2012 county aging summit. Over 120 professionals representing local government, nonprofits, businesses, and churches attended the summit and agreed that this was a top priority. Soon after the summit, a Senior Action Council was formed, and the SMiles program was implemented within six months.
SMiles (Senior Miles) is a volunteer rural transportation service by the Blount County Community Action Agency for seniors 60 or older. It is a membership program, and each ride can be up to 3 hours long and include 2 stops.
Assisted Rides, a web-based program, is the software that tracks all rides, client accounts, volunteer records, trips, and destinations. It takes the place of at least one full-time employee. Drivers log in to their account and assign themselves to the trips that they can provide. Approximately 90% of the trips are self-assigned in this way. Seniors call SMiles to arrange a ride. Assisted Rides also has the capacity to allow riders to log in and schedule their rides.
Funding is provided by:
- Government transportation funds
- The local United Way
- Rider fees
This program provides seniors with increased freedom and an enhanced quality of life, as they are able to participate in normal daily activities around the community.
Eligibility requirements include:
- 60 or older
- Able to walk with the assistance of a walker or cane
- Initial payment of $49 to cover the first year of membership and first 4 rides
- $25 for the renewal of an annual membership
- $6 for each ride
Volunteers receive a SMiles Volunteer Driver Handbook and go through 4 hours of training, which includes information on policies and procedures as well as senior sensitivity training.
- Give at least one ride each month, which is a 3-hour commitment
- Provide regularly updated driver's license and insurance information
Since 2013, SMiles has successfully provided over 35,000 trips to medical appointments, supermarkets, and social events within Blount County. Of these rides:
- Over 50% were for medical services
- The remainder were trips to the following:
- Hair salons
- Grocery stores
- Social gatherings
- 120 volunteer drivers (average age of 67)
- 36% of the drivers are men
Volunteers have driven over 241,000 miles and donated 27,000 hours of their time, valued at $459,500.
In 2015, SMiles was featured in the AARP Bulletin. In 2017, the program received a STAR Award from the National Volunteer Transportation Center. In addition, the program is being replicated across Tennessee through the Senior Volunteer Transportation Network.
Volunteer recruitment and retention are critical for program success. Drivers are urged to advocate on behalf of SMiles.
Riders can physically and mentally decline quite rapidly to the point where they are no longer capable of traveling with a volunteer.
The following SMiles forms are available for potential members as well as volunteers:
- SMiles membership application
- Consent form for riders
- Rider code of conduct
- SMiles volunteer application
View a July 2014 National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) conference presentation to get a broader look into the SMiles program, its beginnings, and ways it is successfully serving the rural community.
SMiles program awareness is spread through the county by:
- Area partners, including the Chamber of Commerce
- Retirement communities
- Physicians' offices
- Word of mouth
Contact InformationJoani Shaver, Blount County Office on Aging Director
Blount County Community Action Agency
Aging and aging-related services
July 28, 2015
Date updated or reviewed
July 9, 2020
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2020. SMiles Senior Transportation [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/809 [Accessed 22 October 2020]
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