By ALYSSA DANDREA The Concord Monitor

HOPKINTON, N.H.  — Seated by her kitchen table with a magazine in hand, 98-year-old Ann Simms waited for her friends to arrive. She was ready to go with her blue jacket zipped up and her white sneakers tied.

As soon as she heard the front door open and a warm greeting on the other side, a smile crossed her face.

“How are you doing, darling?” she said while embracing Sue Strickford, one of the 30 volunteers for Hopkinton’s Dial-A-Ride program.

For approximately five years Simms has called upon the services of Dial-A-Ride, which primarily helps homebound seniors get to medical and personal appointments, as well as other social activities, including the weekly lunch at the Slusser Senior Center in town. In just a few days the nonprofit, volunteer program will mark its 40th anniversary, and those who dedicate their time free of charge say participation is stronger than ever with upwards of 50 rides logged in some months.

Simms remembers when the program first began in the late 1970s, first as an extension of the Woman’s Club. Her friend, Ann Slusser, chairwoman of the club’s social services committee, was committed to addressing the future needs of residents, and ultimately, elderly services rose to the top of the list. Simms, who was new to town, had just joined the Woman’s Club as a way to give back to her community and to get to know her neighbors, and she was eager to help.

“I was a volunteer for many years,” Simms said at her home last week. “Now, almost 40 years later, I’m a patient. Without it, I’d be homebound. I guess we’ve come full circle. I never expected to live to 98.”

“Now, I can’t see, I can’t hear and I can’t walk,” she laughs as she pokes fun at herself. “Oh, this is horrible.”

But her sense of humor aside, Simms admits she does pretty well for herself. Not many people still get to live at home when they’re age 98, she notes.

For Strickford and co-volunteer Kay Carr, the Dial-A-Ride program is a fixture in the Hopkinton community that ensures elderly residents who no longer drive can still access the community and medical services that they need to live healthy and happy lives. The program has operated out of the Slusser Senior Center building since 2008.

At one time, Dial-A-Ride limited its transportation services exclusively for medical appointments but both Strickford and Carr agreed that personal and social appointments, such as book club at the library or trips to the hair salon, are often just as important.

“We want people to look good and feel good, too,” Strickford said. “Sometimes we will also go out for lunch with folks. We say, ‘You pay for yours and I’ll pay for mine,’ so no one is owed anything. We don’t mind a bit. It’s fun.”

For Strickford, the rides are something she looks forward to, especially when she gets the opportunity to catch up with a dear friend.