Seniors on the Move
Transportation can be a significant obstacle for a senior wanting to connect with friends and family, participate in social programs or even get out in the community for ordinary activities like shopping. Poor mobility and balance, declining cognitive ability, fare costs, and language difficulties can be significant barriers to accessing transportation options.
Seniors on the Move was a multi-sector collaboration to (a) share and enhance existing services and best practices; (b) design innovative new services and partnerships; (c) help seniors plan for age-related changes to their transportation needs and connect them to appropriate options; and (d) advocate for improved transportation services.
Seniors on the Move had a Steering Committee which met monthly and played a large role in both programming and public policy discussions. Steering Committee members included the project partners, as well as United Way of the Lower Mainland, TransLink, HandyDART, ICBC, Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health, Modo, SFU Gerontology, Immigrant Services Society, Seniors Services Society, Nurse Next Door, Insight Driver Fitness and sparc bc.
For more information about the partners in this project see Allies in Aging Partners.
We also hosted quarterly Seniors Advisory Committee meetings with seniors across the region to better understand their transportation needs and test possible solutions to filling gaps. If you are a senior struggling with transportation concerns and would like to have your voice heard, consider applying for the Seniors Advisory Committee by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many initiatives have helped make Metro Vancouver more accessible to seniors needing to get around. For example, all buses are now accessible to mobility devices, and kneeling buses make it easier for seniors to get on the bus. Senior-serving agencies provide rides from volunteer drivers. This is all great, but with an aging population, we know more needs to be done to make our communities inclusive for everyone. Here are our priority issues:
Built environment: Small improvements can make big changes for the safety of many seniors and others with limited mobility or wheeled mobility devices. Curb cuts, longer pedestrian crossing times, leading pedestrian intervals, benches, washrooms, covered bus shelters, good street lighting, shorter walking distances to transit stops- these need to be planned in future projects, but also need to be retrofitted to our existing communities.
Systems-level change: Increased coordination in the sector needs to occur between volunteer ride programs, community-based and formal transportation sectors, and health agencies and the transportation sector.
Driving transition: For many seniors who have driven to get around for most of their lives, making the decision to use other forms of transportation is a hard decision. It brings a very real risk of social isolation if not planned for properly. While alternative transportation options need to be vastly improved, planning for the decision to drive less needs to be more proactive than reactive.
Improvements to HandyDART: TransLink recently commissioned a review of HandyDART, Metro Vancouver’s public transit system for people with disabilities, and adopted many recommendations from its Stakeholder Advisory Committee. We’re watching the process closely and providing our own feedback from the perspective of seniors, particularly those who might not be using HandyDART due to current service restrictions. We are supportive of many of the initiatives recommended, including a “family of services” approach, but we believe it needs to include more than HandyDART with conventional transit, such as seniors shuttles.
Capacity building in the community sector: Our partner agencies offered rides to seniors to keep them connected to the community. With limited resources, priority is often given to medical transportation. Working to reduce social isolation means increasing opportunities for social connectedness – and getting seniors out and about.
Coordination, developing and sharing best practices: Many seniors’ agencies operate volunteer ride programs but face limitations in how many rides they can provide due to: a shortage of volunteer drivers; uncertainty due to a lack of coherent information around insurance and training; and referrals from coordinated efforts across transportation providers. We developed new volunteer driver recruitment and training strategies by combining best practices and trying out new methods, such as partnering with Modo the Car Co-op to provide access to cars for volunteers. We have also worked with ICBC to develop an insurance toolkit for managing risk.
Transit Training: With the generous support of TransLink, we tested transit training workshops for seniors to increase their use of transit and help them use the system more effectively. Sessions included online trip-planning, use of compass cards, transit station visits, and how to transfer between modes within the system.
Vision Zero: With the support of Fraser Health Authority, we conducted walking audits with seniors in Burnaby. These audits documented the condition of walking infrastructure and offered seniors the opportunity to work together to suggest opportunities to municipal officials.