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Media Relations Contact:
Morgan Lyons

June 28, 2004

DART keeps seniors moving

Ticket to an Active Lifestyle

If you happen to see a group of senior ladies - all bedecked in red hats and purple outfits - taking over the DART train you're riding, don't be alarmed. They're members of the Red Hat Society and they're out for a big time on the town.

Operating under the motto 'Fun After Fifty,' members get together to shop, have lunch and just generally pal around. One of the hallmarks of this particular chapter of the national organization: The ladies get to area restaurants and shopping destinations exclusively by DART.

Sandi Goldbach, 60, an active member of the Society's Plano chapter, owns a car herself, but says that DART is a more convenient option, especially for traveling to downtown Dallas. "Taking the train has the added benefit of being fun," she says. Moreover, many of the senior ladies in Goldbach's group aren't as active and sprightly as she is, and DART enhances their mobility considerably. "Lots of seniors have cars but don't particularly care to drive," she explains. "And then there are some older ladies in our group who can't drive."

Sandi Goldbach, second from left, and her fellow society members are ready for a ride from the Downtown Plano DART Rail Station.
Sandi Goldbach, second from left, and her fellow society members are ready for a ride from the Downtown Plano DART Rail Station.

There are more than 70 women in the chapter. With DART, they enjoy the run of the Metroplex - generally in groups of 20 to 30. "We've traveled all over the place," she reports. "We go to the West End for lunch all the time; we've gone shopping at places like NorthPark. We've even taken the Trinity Railway Express to Fort Worth and visited the Cowgirl Museum and other attractions. DART is the best thing that's ever happened for Plano seniors."

Providing a lifeline
The kind of mobility the Red Hats enjoy is vital to an active senior lifestyle. As the baby boom becomes the "senior boom" in the coming years, senior mobility will become a national issue.

In fact, the Census predicts that, by 2025, the over-65 population will increase by nearly 30 million people nationwide - and that they will drive less and less. As people age, they tend to restrict their driving to neighborhood streets and daylight hours. Currently, more than one in five elderly Americans does not drive at all.

According to a recent study sponsored by the Surface Transportation Policy Project and the AARP, more than half of all elderly non-drivers in America stay home regularly - making fewer trips for social, family and religious activities, as well as fewer visits to the doctor. This isolation limits their ability to participate in the community and contribute to the economy. It also raises health care costs, since early detection will generally improve an ailment's prognosis.

In short, the study reveals that for older Americans, public transportation provides a crucial lifeline. That's where DART comes in.

"DART is a really good thing for me, because it allows me to get to the VA hospital without having to line up a ride," says Dallas senior Marvin Thomas, 78. "You can't beat DART as a way to get there - it's right on the Blue Line. Driving a car, there would be too much expense and danger involved."

Jorge Pliego agrees. "DART is perfect for me," the Richardson senior says. "I use DART to go shopping, to go to my doctor, to go to church on Sunday - everything. It's very good to be able to go so many places for so little money. My reduced monthly pass gets me everywhere."

Clearly, more and more area seniors are discovering the advantages of a transit lifestyle. For many of them, it's a key element to remaining active.

Dancing days
"Mickey and I take the light rail just about every day," says Allen Kendrick. He is referring to his good friend and fellow Garlandite, Ms. Mickey Flowers. The two seniors, who coyly report that they "never lie about" their age, meet at the South Garland Transit Center, where they take a bus to White Rock Station and catch a train. "From there, we go just about anywhere and everywhere," Kendrick says, speaking from the platform of Union Station. "We just came from the Irving Heritage Senior Center, which is right next to a TRE station. We go there regularly to take dance lessons."

"I have a car," Flowers explains, "but taking the train is much more fun - and safer, too. Plus, have you seen the price of gas lately?"

The pair also makes it to Fort Worth on the TRE to visit the museums on occasion. "We really enjoy getting around on the trains," Mr. Kendrick states. "It's very convenient - the service these days is just excellent."

As if on cue, the northbound Red Line train pulls into the station and the two excuse themselves. "We're off to the Spaghetti Warehouse [in Dallas' West End] for lunch," Mr. Kendrick explains.

Opportunities to interact
Realizing the importance of its services to area seniors, DART reaches out to them through a comprehensive program that educates and informs them on how to use fixed route service independently.

DART's educational outreach program for seniors includes formal presentations on DART services and hands-on tours, both tailored specifically for seniors. The presentations are made at senior centers, retirement homes, senior citizen health fairs and seminars. Topics covered include how to use fixed-route service independently, general safety tips and introduction to the area's destinations and attractions. Program details are available at www.DART.org/seniors or by calling 214-749-2582.

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