Transportation for Rural Older Adults is Life-Changing

Gay Bolanowski participates in an Enhance Fitness class at Chelsea Senior Center.

From Pamela Parkinson

Gay Bolanowski, 72, a member of Chelsea Senior Center since April of 2017, has experienced the loss of the ability to drive and knows how access to alternative transportation options like the WAVE bus can be transformative.

It could happen to any one of us. Two years ago, a series of three aneurisms left Gay blind in one eye and with very low vision in the other.  A bus driver for 30 years, Gay suddenly found herself unable to drive.  “One of the basic things that makes me crazy is I can’t drive.  I was a very active person.”

She moved from Gaylord, Michigan to live with her daughter and son-in-law in their rural Gregory home.  Both work and leave the house at 6:30am.  While grateful for the support of her family, Gay found herself, “sitting home doing nothing,” and without transportation, not able to do the things she was accustomed to doing.  In Gaylord she was an active part of the community as a volunteer for the Fire Department Auxiliary and at the hospital.

Then she learned about the WAVE bus and discovered it could take her to the Chelsea Senior Center (CSC).  Gay uses the WAVE’s door-to-door service and schedules trips three days a week to make the nine-mile journey to CSC.  She has been a very active member for a year, walking “the block” inside the building, participating in Enhance Fitness classes, playing bingo, joining the lunch crowd, and making new friends.  “I notice I feel a lot better.  I’m not depressed like I was.  I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t coming here [to CSC].”

Expansion of transportation options for older adults in Western Washtenaw County is the top strategic priority of the Chelsea Senior Center.  WAVE routes and door-to-door service are meeting needs for older adults in Western Washtenaw County, but CSC envisions expanding options in an innovative way to increase the destinations, flexibility, and scheduling availability.  Gay explains, “[With the WAVE,] I have a set schedule.  If I want to do something outside of my schedule, I have to call 24 hours in advance.” This is a limitation for spur-of-the moment adventures. Yet Gay says, “If I could drive today, I’d be driving that [WAVE] bus.”  If, however, she could call for a ride the same day, she thinks she would.  “I’m lucky to be alive, and I’m not afraid to do anything.”

CSC has been chosen one of ten finalists in the AAACF’s Vital Seniors Competition, a $2.5 million initiative designed to catalyze high-impact innovation and create enduring outcomes for vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in Washtenaw County.  As part of this competition, the public will get a chance to view a short video about all 10 proposals and vote for their favorite. The Chelsea Senior Center will need your vote to win so we can address rural transportation for older adults. Look for more details on how to vote in the coming weeks.  Information will be posted on the website at


About Chelsea Senior Center

For more information about Chelsea Senior Center’s activities please call (734) 475-9242 or email  The Chelsea Senior Center is a 501(c) 3 non-profit located in the Washington Street Education Center at 512 E. Washington Street, Chelsea, MI.  Office hours are Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Center’s mission is to enhance the quality of life and well-being for area seniors and their families.



Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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