You're not likely to find senior citizens Paul and Barbara Franklin rocking on the porch, but you might see them running on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge or pumping iron at the gym.
If they ache afterward they might take a Bayer aspirin, because that's the company where they met more than two decades ago. The job that brought them together, resulting in a second marriage for both, also brought them here. Now retired, they're as busy as ever working to bring an array of services to senior citizens aimed at keeping them in their homes as long as possible.
Four years ago, Paul Franklin, 65, founded the South Carolina Aging In Place Coalition, which consists of about 75 organizations dedicated to helping seniors plan for aging. The Franklins, who have traveled the world from Antarctica to Iceland, are at the forefront of meeting a growing demand by Lowcountry seniors for safe and reliable transportation to nearby destinations such as the doctor's office or the grocery store.
An offshoot of the Aging In Place Coalition, ITNCharleston Trident matches a network of mostly volunteer drivers with the needs of seniors looking for help getting to their destination and back again. In its first year, ITNCharleston Trident has provided more than 3,300 rides for people 65 years and older, the majority of them to medical appointments. Demand for the service is booming, and more drivers are needed.
The catalyst for the coalition was the Franklins' experience with the long-term illness of Barbara Franklin's father, who died from Alzheimer's disease. Her mother worked hard to keep her husband in the home as long as possible, but eventually an institution was the only feasible alternative.
"We saw a need for a coalition of providers that could step in and help families in these types of situation. That's really what stimulated us to get the coalition together," Paul Franklin said.
The Franklins married in 1985 in Pittsburgh; Bayer brought them here in 1987. Paul has two sons by his first marriage, ages 39 and 37. The older son and a grandson live here. Barbara is 59 and has no children. After retiring, the Franklins started Franklin and Associates, a long-term care planning and finance firm, and Franklin Funding, which specializes in reverse mortgages.
The Aging In Place Coalition is a network of for-profit, not-for-profit, government agencies and medical institutions designed to help seniors live safely, comfortably and independently in their homes. ITNCharleston Trident started on Nov. 15, 2006. The transportation network happened because Paul Franklin, coalition chairman, joined with other coalition members to look for a solution to the transportation needs of the elderly and the visually impaired.
ITNCharleston Trident is an independent, mostly volunteer-driven transportation network serving Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Although most of its trips are for doctor's appointments, participants also can get a lift to the grocery store, beauty salon, pharmacy or the movies. Franklin described the service as "dignified transportation."
The annual membership fee for the service is $35 per person, and arrangements are made for those who can't afford the fees, Franklin said.
Franklin said independence and control are vital issues for seniors. "The aging don't want to count on friends and family to take them everywhere," he said.
Franklin said the coalition is an information clearinghouse for seniors wanting help with a variety of issues such as healthy lifestyle, a safe and secure residence, legal and financial advice, supportive relationships and transportation.
The coalition focus is planning for aging, rather than waiting until a health crisis hits, he said. "If your ideal retirement home is under your feet it won't happen by accident. When a crisis comes your options are limited," he said.
ITNCharleston Trident operates a fleet of donated cars and employs part-time drivers for late-night transport when volunteers are not available. The agency matches the schedules of volunteer drivers to the needs of the elderly.