Through its Health On Wheels Van Service, the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas has found a way to bring more seniors into its facility — literally. The club started the transportation program in July as a means of encouraging memberships among older adults, and within just a few months, it has grown into a full-fledged service for the senior community.

In addition to providing free transportation to senior members who are unable to drive to the fitness center, Health On Wheels offers transportation from local senior organizations and retirement communities to health lectures scheduled throughout the year. According to Wendy Oakes, director of senior and recreational programs, the service reaches far beyond just transporting members to the club. “It is well known that the age wave is upon us and Americans are living longer,” Oakes says. “The senior citizen segment of the U.S. today is growing at twice the rate of any other segment. As this segment grows, health care remains a major concern. Programs such as Health On Wheels offer a new beginning and may ultimately help reduce one’s dependence on a long-term care facility.”

Currently, more than a dozen members use the transportation service on a weekly basis, and according to Oakes, several other senior members have expressed gratitude knowing the service is available should they need it. To cover the cost of the free service, the Cooper Fitness Center sells sponsorships to area businesses. The annual cost of the program ranges from $10,000 to $12,000, Oakes says.

To ensure member safety, those who utilize the van service are required to complete an extensive health form and be screened for health status and medication information. This information is then shared with the van driver, who is certified in CPR and first aid. In case of emergency, the vehicle is equipped with a phone.

Although the club has yet to track membership statistics in relation to Health on Wheels, Oakes predicts a definite boost in membership. “We’ve got members who are in their 50s and 60s who now want their parents to join because of the service,” she says. “It’s turning out to be a great service for everyone.”

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