Local senior stays social and active thanks to United Way

“I can get to the senior center in a short time, and the drivers help me get in and out. It’s so helpful.”

More than 50 years ago, Joe Hajducko came to the United States from Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) to visit family. What was intended to be a vacation turned into a home when his aunt became sick and Joe became her caregiver. He gained his U.S. citizenship in 1977.

“My aunt and uncle did not have any kids of their own, so I was glad to be here to help them until my aunt passed in 2006,” Joe said. Now, Joe is 81 and lives independently in the house his aunt and uncle built in Greenfield nearly six decades ago.

Throughout Joe’s adulthood, he struggled with leg and hip pain and is now unable to bend his knees. Despite that, Joe loves being out of his house socializing, gardening, and walking when he is able. Recently, he began visiting the local senior center where he has made friends and started exercising. He tried an Access Bus to get there, but it was a long drive with many stops and was extremely uncomfortable.

“I can’t bend my knees, and on the bus, I have to sit in my wheel chair. It was painful,” Joe explained. “But I really like going to the senior center.”

Joe found support through a partnership with United Way, the UPMC Living-at-Home Program, and Traveler’s Aid where local seniors are able to schedule rides with Uber for free. “The Uber drivers are always very nice, and they let me sit in the front seat with the chair reclined, so I am more comfortable. The drivers help me get in and out,” Joe said.

Now, Joe is able to easily get to the senior center, and he has even started scheduling Uber rides to go other places, like church, coffee shops and physical therapy. It has helped change the quality of his life and enables him to socialize, meet new friends, and try new things.

“This service has made a huge difference for me,” Joe said.

This year was the pilot program for the Traveler’s Aid Uber program, but United Way and its partners have extended it for another year with hopes to continue to expand in years to come.