Island Senior: Building a Support Team

By Peggy Sue McRae, Journal contributor

Last spring when my optometrist informed me that I had cataracts coming on, I was not happy to hear it. While not the worst news a person could get from a medical professional, still it indicated two eye surgeries, all of the appointments and planning required, plus a need to round up support. The entire process would involve several trips to Mt. Vernon and post-op appointments in Friday Harbor that I would not be able to drive to by myself.

For island seniors, coordinating off-island medical trips is part of the challenge of living here on our beautiful island. For single low-income seniors, it can seem particularly daunting. It feels like a big request to ask someone to take you off island for a whole day or more. I’m very lucky to have a few good friends willing to do this for me and managed to enlist one friend for each eye surgery. Spreading the task out made it seem slightly less of a huge favor.

One member of my support team is my sister Sally who lives on the mainland. I had my first eye surgery this week and she came and stayed at the clinic, allowing my island support person to go do mainland errands while I was waiting, in prep and then in surgery. It was good for all of us to have her there.

One thing that helped in my case was that I applied for and was eligible for transportation vouchers. That means I can cover the car and driver ferry fare for my support people. This county program provides on-island transportation via taxis or shuttles plus ferry tickets. If your income is less than $25,000/year, contact the Mullis Center (360-370-4015) or the Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center to apply.

Travel vouchers also help to subsidize using Island Rides. Island Rides (360-375-0237) is a local service available to take you to appointments, help you run errands or get you to activities such as community lunches at the Mullis Center. You can ride free, pay what you can, or use travel vouchers.

I had my first post-op appointment at San Juan Vision Source. Normally I would drive myself, but following eye surgery, that is not recommended. Island Rides picked me up at home and delivered me to my appointment. I’m happy to report that my eye surgery went well and the improvement in my eyesight is already remarkable. Getting older comes with inevitable challenges. Sometimes you need support. Other times you will be the support person. Together we can ease the challenges and enjoy the camaraderie of our golden years.