35 Years and Counting
The story of Drive a Senior West Austin (initially known as West Austin Caregivers) dates back to 1985 when Kathy Backus, a graduate student at St. Edward's University, began a project to provide services to seniors so they could continue living independently in their homes.
From her research and organizational efforts came West Austin Caregivers. It was organized as a community-based volunteer service through Austin Metropolitan Ministries and eventually supported by 17 congregations in West Austin. It was modeled after a national volunteer caregivers' program and tailored its services to the neighborhood it served. The purpose was to respond to the needs of the increasing number of seniors who were living alone and who could no longer drive.
From the beginning, West Austin Caregivers was well received by the elder clients, their families, and volunteers. As word of these services spread this caregiver model was replicated in other areas of the city. North West Austin, North Central Austin, North East Austin, and South Austin developed independent programs followed by Pflugerville, Round Rock, Georgetown and eventually South West Austin and Elgin. Representatives of supporting congregations govern and operate the individual groups. West Austin Caregivers has been a member of the American Society on Aging and the National Council on Aging from which it receives information about the changing national trends affecting older adults.
As West Austin Caregivers has evolved it changed its name to Drive a Senior West Austin to align with other caregiver groups and to reflect more closely its primary service. In 2020, Drive a Senior West Austin merged with Drive a Senior North Central to form Drive a Senior Austin (DAS ATX). The two agencies had functioned separately for over 30 years with very similar cultures and philosophies. As senior transportation needs are rapidly growing it is felt that one large organization can do a better job at expanding our services to meet the needs of all Austin aging adults. We will be stronger together and are excited about what is to come!
2019 took us through a 20% increase in rides and we are not slowing down! We anticipate another 20% in the next year. Our van program expanded 63% in 2019 and now includes a social club for our registered clients where we visit fun and meaningful destinations in Austin bi-monthly. We have begun to really focus on what “aging well” means for our senior neighbors; remaining connected and active in the community is just as important as getting to the doctor. Strategic planning is in motion as we expand our Social Club, grocery van routes, client outreach,
and community involvement moving into 2020.