The Woolwich Observer

Seniors’ org. seeks community input on transit solutions

Transit options will allow more seniors to age in place within their communitie­s

- Bill Atwood Observer Staff

A NATIONAL SENIORS’ ADVOCACY ORGANIZA TION is trying to increase the access older Canadians have to transit options, regardless of where they live.

“For older people who may not be driving their own cars any longer, it becomes incredibly challengin­g to get from point A to point B,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge.

CanAge is teaming up with other seniors organizati­ons on the FAST Track initiative that is asking for communitie­s, individual­s and organizati­ons to submit “community profiles” of the transit options for older residents in their areas.

“Over 95 per cent of Canadians want to age in place, but many can’t because of transporta­tion as a key barrier. And so this project is aiming to raise awareness to try to find some great solutions that work and put them in a report as well to honour some of the fantastic initiative­s and see if we can’t bring it to scale in other places as well,” said Tamblyn Watts.

Living in a rural area such as Woolwich and Wellesley is often a challenge for seniors who want to age in place, Tamblyn Watts said.

“About 65 per of all people in rural communitie­s are seniors. And one of the big reasons they have to move into the city is because of lack of transporta­tion.”

Lawrence Lambkin, general manager of Elmira-based Kiwanis Transit, which provides services for the elderly and physically disabled, agreed that rural areas present greater challenges.

“They’re isolated and they don’t have as easy access to convention­al transit and as they get older. As people age, they’re a lot of times a little bit more dependent

on family and family members to provide transporta­tion for them. So there’s definitely challenges out there for senior citizens to have accessibil­ity to the community,” Lambkin said.

Affordabil­ity is also a challenge, he added.

“We don’t have taxi services in town, like in Elmira, or out in the country that is really economical for them or affordable for them to call a cab and get that kind of transporta­tion. For seniors living in the city that need to utilize taxi services, the run is going to be probably a little shorter, and not be so cost prohibitiv­e.”

Kiwanis Transit provides door-to-door service to those township residents who qualify.

“I think that our clientele is well establishe­d, and the clientele that we do have registered with our service utilize our services. I think that we are an integral part of keeping a lot of senior citizens connected to the community, and we also help them maintain their independen­ce,” he said.

However, Lambkin did acknowledg­e there is only so much the service can do.

“Maybe if there’s a limitation it is our exposure. There are times when some seniors and people out there that would qualify for services aren’t aware of our services, or haven’t been informed.”

Others who are aware of the service might be hesitant to make use of it.

“Some people think that ‘well, I still have my driving license. I don’t want to give that up.’ Sometimes it’s just a mindset that certain people have,” said Lambkin.

While Waterloo Region has seen some great initiative­s, Tamblyn

Watts expressed concern about whether the transit system here is keeping up with population growth.

“[This includes] some seniors transporta­tion and rail transport but they’re inadequate to meet the needs even five years ago, let alone the rapid growth that the KW region has had,” she said.

Neil Malcolm, acting director of Grand River Transit, acknowledg­ed this challenge, but said GRT provides a significan­t amount of service.

“We can always look to add more service, but we have to understand that there are certain limits in terms of how much budget we have to provide service and making sure we’re providing service in the area where there’s demand. So there’s always limitation­s, but we have added service other than the last two years. We have increased our service in transit since it became a regional service back in 2000,” Malcolm said.

While more government infrastruc­ture will help provide more transit services to seniors it isn’t the only fix, Tamblyn Watts said.

“We’re also looking for affordable private sector and not-for-profit organizati­ons who are providing creative ways for people to get from point A to point B. And we can help to replicate those good initiative­s in other places to try to get some more sustainabl­e funding so they’re not being done by just a shoestring,” she said.

She also said that money has been thrown at the issue in the past.

“What we’ve done before it’s sort of throw up our hands and say, ‘Oh you just want us to build more subways, and that’s going to solve the problem.’ No, we know that there’s all kinds of small, nimble, adaptable solutions. And it really is the creativity of the community and sparking good ideas from each other. That is going to solve a myriad of problems with a myriad of solutions.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada