Sometimes the revolutionary can be found in the ordinary. Prairie Five Community Action, a nonprofit serving five western Minnesota counties, merits praise for seeing that type of potential in a regular bus.
As the age wave washes over Minnesota, innovation is vital to ensure that seniors get the support they need to age in place and lead active lives. But limitations too often come with aging. Driving and getting around can be a challenge, particularly for those on farms or in small communities that don’t have a store or clinic.
That’s where the Prairie Five bus comes in. The idea is to bring support and services to seniors in their communities or even on their doorstep. A retrofitted bus, now known as the Mobile Community Center for Older Adults, took its maiden voyage last month. The nonprofit is believed to be the first to pilot a project like this in Minnesota. Counties served are Swift, Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine.
Amenities on board include laptops, high-speed internet, a 32-inch monitor and seating for eight. These capabilities can help with telemedicine appointments, researching Medicare enrollment or videoconferencing faraway grandkids. One likely upcoming use: using the bus as a mobile flu shot clinic. There’s a lift for wheelchairs or walkers, and a coffee pot, just inside the door, is always brewing.
The bus was purchased and retrofitted with a “Live Well at Home” grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Laura Thomas, a Prairie Five staffer, says people are excited when the bus pulls up, and they share her pride in piloting the effort. “This is something folks here can feel real proud of,” Thomas said. She’s right.
The mobile center is both pragmatic and pioneering. This is a smart idea that could potentially help many other elders around Minnesota. Well done.