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Rural Health Information Hub

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 41,500 rides and errands 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
  • Rider fees
  • Donations
  • Fundraiser

Services offered

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
  • Non-driver
  • Able to walk with the assistance of a walker or cane
  • Able to communicate with the driver

Fees include:

  • 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
  • All paid in advance. Volunteers do not accept any money from riders.

Volunteers receive a SMiles Volunteer Driver Handbook and go through 4 hours of training, which includes information on policies, procedures, senior sensitivity, as well as how to use the Assisted Rides software.

Volunteer expectations:

  • 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 41,500 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
    • Banks
    • Social gatherings
    • Volunteer work

Current statistics:

  • 135 volunteer drivers (average age of 66)
  • 35% of the drivers are men
  • 186 riders (average age of 78)

Volunteers have driven over 310,000 miles and donated 32,000 hours of their time, valued at $500,000.

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 and recruit their friends and neighbors.

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 program awareness is spread through the county by:

  • Media and social media
  • Area partners, including the Chamber of Commerce
  • Retirement communities
  • Physicians' offices
  • Word of mouth

Contact Information

Mary Mixon, SMiles Manager
Blount County Community Action Agency

Aging and aging-related services
Elderly population

States served

Date added
July 28, 2015

Date updated or reviewed
August 5, 2022

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2022. SMiles Senior Transportation [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 18 June 2024]

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.