Date Presented 04/21/2023

Community mobility is vital for promoting engagement in meaningful activities and occupations outside the home. This study compared engagement levels among older adults, with and without access to volunteer transportation, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Primary Author and Speaker: Belinda D. Alexander

Contributing Authors: Casey Humphrey, Allen Keener

Numerous older adults rely on a variety of transportation options for community mobility and without access, are at increased risk for social isolation, decreased activity levels, and diminished levels of occupational engagement. Some communities have volunteer transportation programs that have successfully filled the gap for those unable to access traditional public transportation. To date, no studies had compared engagement levels amongst the users of different modes of community transportation, thus the purpose of this study was to compare the engagement levels amongst older adults with and without access to volunteer transportation services, whilst also considering the impact of Covid-19 upon their community mobility. Survey research, using a convergent, mixed-methods design, was utilized to compare the engagement levels of two subject groups from Virginia and Texas. The Engagement in Meaningful Activities Survey (EMAS) was used to measure both subject groups’ perceived levels of engagement. Additionally, custom questions were included to identify other factors affecting their community mobility amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Study results revealed that community mobility was negatively impacted during the pandemic. Furthermore, a comparison of EMAS scores from the two groups revealed that the scores for the group with access to volunteer transportation were lower than the group without. Their lower scores were likely due to the loss of transportation services during the pandemic shutdowns, while the group without such access did not experience a loss of services. Results from the additional survey questions exposed the detrimental impact on the subjects’ mental and physical health resulting from their diminished community mobility. These findings validate that community mobility is essential for facilitating occupational engagement and supports volunteer transportation programs as an essential service for providing community mobility options for older adults.


Chihuri, S., Mielenz, T. J., DiMaggio, C. J., Betz, M. E., DiGuiseppi, C., Jones, V. C., & Li, G. (2016). Driving cessation and health outcomes in older adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 64(2), 332–341.

Dombrowsky, T.A. (2017). Relationship between engagement and level of functional status in older adults. SAGE Open Medicine, 5, 1–9.

Eakman, A.M. (2012). Measurement characteristics of the engagement in meaningful activities survey in an age-diverse sample. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66, e20–e29.

Kerschner, H., & Rousseau, M.H. (2008). Volunteer drivers: Their contributions to older adults and to themselves. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education, 29(4), 383–397.