Her subsequent efforts to remedy that situation through community networking have since resulted in a nonprofit that provides transportation seven days a week for roughly 1,500 seniors each year in several different communities.
The network started as Round Rock Caregivers but soon became the nonprofit now known as Senior Access. Next September, the nonprofit will celebrate 30 years in operation.
“Our mission is to give people access to wherever they want to go,” Senior Access Executive Director Serita Lacasse said. “So if they need to go to the grocery store or they need to go to the beauty shop, we’re going to get [them] there. We want them to be connected to the community.”
Senior Access started by offering one-on-one rides through a network of volunteers—to date more than 680 volunteers provide rides—but Lacasse said services have grown to include van rides to various stores and social events. The van program launched in 2013.
“Our rides were probably 90% medical at that time and maybe 10% grocery and other rides,” she said. “Once we started the rides on the van, it totally pivoted.”
Now, Lacasse said van rides for larger groups to events and stores, including Walmart and H-E-B, account for roughly 80% of their total services through a five-vehicle fleet.
In 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging in the U.S., Senior Access launched a kind of buddy program.
Essentially, the buddy program matches seniors with volunteers who can help with everyday tasks, from walking pets to household chores.
“We have one guy that [walks dogs],” Lacasse said. “We have another one where they play cards together. Every once in a while they’ll go grocery shopping together.”
Lacasse said the nonprofit operated in Round Rock for almost 20 years before merging with a similar nonprofit called Pflugerville Caregivers in 2011.
Eventually the group spread to provide services in Hutto, East Austin and Manor, but Lacasse said it still bases operations out of the Round Rock office within the Palm Valley Lutheran Church.
Nearly 30 years ago, the nonprofit started by giving rides to five people. Lacasse said Senior Access is projected to provide rides for roughly 1,600 seniors through 2023.
“What I’ve seen in the 20 years I’ve been with Senior Access is we forget seniors want to be involved in life,” Lacasse said. “Through our program, we are able to help seniors get back to their lives.”
Senior Access started as a way to take clients to and from appointments. Now the nonprofit offers several other services for seniors.
- One-on-one trips: Senior Access volunteers transport clients between their homes and medical visits.
- Van service: Fixed routes run weekly to local H-E-B, Walmart, Target, dollar stores and social events.
- Buddy program: A volunteer matches with a senior to assist with activities such as walking a dog, playing cards or just visiting.
- Special event transportation: Senior Access provides rides monthly to a social activity that provides games, programs and a meal.
2498 E. Palm Valley Blvd., Round Rock