Accessible transportation is crucial for seniors to stay connected to community, visit family, participate in social activities, shop for nutritional food, and access the health and community-based services they need. When transportation resources are not available, seniors are at greater risk of being socially isolated and at risk of the health challenges associated with social isolation.
Like the majority of people in Canada (particularly those in rural areas), seniors rely on cars as their primary form of transportation. Age-related changes in physical or mental health can impact the ability of seniors to drive safely. Beginning at age 80, seniors in B.C. must complete a mandatory medical examination every two years to maintain their driver’s license. When a senior loses their license, or voluntarily chooses to stop or limit their driving because they no longer feel comfortable, it can have a significant impact on their life. When public transit options are not available or accessible, they have to rely on assistance from friends and family, volunteer driver programs, rideshares, taxis, walking, or other forms of transportation.
In a survey conducted by the Raising the Profile Project of Better at Home Site Coordinators across the province, transportation clearly emerged as the most commonly identified service gap for seniors. Bus and HandyDART services were either non-existent or inadequate in most communities. In particular, the ability to get to medical appointments was raised as a concern, most often in rural communities, but in urban areas as well.
Transportation is a highly complex issue, and to fully address it – for seniors or the general public – a broad range of stakeholders and solutions are needed. Nevertheless, many communities are beginning to tackle seniors’ transportation needs through innovative partnerships involving community-based seniors’ services, local government, transit authorities and senior advocates. In fact, many of the initiatives are an outcome of the advocacy work of seniors and other community leaders.
The program profiles and summaries outlined below focus on some of the partnerships that have resulted in improvements to transportation services at a community or regional level. They are offered as examples only, as there are many creative programs offered around the province.
Profiles and Summaries of Specific Transportation Programs
Program Profile: West Kootenay Seniors Transportation (Nelson CARES Society)
The West Kootenay Seniors Transportation program employs a Transportation Coordinator who assists seniors to navigate all of the available public and volunteer transportation resources in the West Kootenays and advocates for seniors to address problems when they arise. This program is a part of the broader Moving Together Project, a cross-sectoral initiative bringing together decision-makers from government and community to look at the policy changes and funding needed to improve access to public transit services for seniors in the West Kootenays. Read the full profile here.
Program Summary: North and South Delta Seniors’ Buses
The North and South Delta Seniors Bus is a service paid for by the municipality of Delta which seniors can register for at their municipal seniors recreation centres. Read the full profile here.
Program Summary: Mount Waddington Regional Transit System (Northern Vancouver Island)
The Mount Waddington Regional Transit System is a regional bus service that links the rural and remote communities on Northern Vancouver Island, and is funded through a tax levy agreed to by the citizens and collected by the regional district. Read the full profile here.
Program Summary: East Kootenay Health Connections Bus
The East Kootenay Health Connections Bus provides transportation for residents in East Kootenay to travel to medical/specialist appointments in Cranbrook. Read the full profile here.