Graduation Year


Document Type


Degree Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy


Background: Without accessible transportation alternatives, many older adults experience declined activity levels, social isolation, and decreased occupational engagement resulting from their lack of community mobility and access. Volunteer transportation programs have been successfully used as an additional community mobility option for many older adults, especially those unable to access the traditional public transportation options, such as buses or taxis, found in many communities.

Purpose: While numerous transportation options, or alternatives, may exist in a community, no studies to date have examined or compared engagement levels related to a specific form of alternative transportation. Therefore, the purpose of this project was to compare engagement levels between older adults with access to volunteer transportation and those without, while also examining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their community mobility.

Theoretical Framework: The Person, Environment, Occupation, and Performance Model (PEOP) supports the construct that without accessible transportation options for community mobility, older adults may experience a decline in their occupational engagement and performance, thus leading to a negative impact upon their health and quality of life.

Methods: Survey research using a convergent, mixed methods design was conducted to compare the engagement levels of two groups of older adults, one with access to volunteer transportation and one without. The Engagement in Meaningful Activities Survey (EMAS) was used to measure the subjects’ engagement levels, as well as custom survey questions aimed at identifying other barriers and factors affecting their community mobility amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Results: The Covid-19 pandemic had a negative impact on the community mobility and subsequent engagement levels of both subject groups. However, the engagement levels for the group of subjects normally with volunteer transportation access were lower compared to the subject group without such access. The decline seen in the group that was accustomed to using volunteer transportation was likely due to their loss of such transportation services caused by the pandemic shutdowns and restrictions, compared to the other subject group who had more driving members and did not experience a loss of services as significant as seen by the other subject group.

Conclusions: Community mobility is vital to the well-being of older adults and without the ability to participate or engage in meaningful activities, their levels of engagement can decline and subsequently lead to a decline in their quality of life. Community mobility must be regarded as more than just transportation to and from locations within the community and should be assessed as a means of promoting engagement in meaningful activities and occupational performance within one’s community, which are vital steps in positively influencing older adults’ health and well-being.

Faculty Mentor

Casey Humphrey, OTD, MHA, OTR/L, CBIS, CDRS

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Committee Member

Allen Keener, OTD, MS, OTR/L, ATP

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy



My Family: To my husband Ross, my sons Braden, Briley, and Bryce, my mom, and mother-in-law, I could not have done this without your prayers and support. I am grateful for your understanding, encouragement, and willingness to allow my attention to be frequently diverted to my studies over the past 2.5 years. Thank you for loving me through this process…we did it!

Dr. Casey Humphrey: I would like to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to Dr. Humphrey for chairing my committee and for your guidance and support during this capstone process. I could not have done it without your wisdom, kindness, and encouragement.

Dr. Allen Keener: Thank you for your willingness to be an active member of my committee and for your guidance, support, and assistance as the content of my project evolved. I also greatly appreciate your words of encouragement and affirmation during this capstone process.

Dr. Michelle Smith: Thank you for your assistance with analyzing data, interpretation, and instruction in the use of the Minitab statistical software for the analysis of this study’s results.

NV Rides and Their Partner Network of Volunteer Transportation Programs: I would especially like to thank Rachel Simon of NV Rides and Jennifer Kanarek, formerly of NV Rides, for your willingness to present this study’s topic and purpose to your stakeholders for their consideration and approval and for the assistance in accessing clients from your volunteer transportation programs. Most of all, thank you for making transportation possible for the clients you serve so that they can continue to successfully age in place and engage in meaningful activities within their communities.

IRB Approval Number (if applicable)