A city study shows almost 25 per cent of seniors have problems getting around Red Deer, whether they drive or use other transportation.
Problems seniors have with their most frequently used mode of transportation include limited wheelchair or walker accessibility, poor health affecting their ability to drive, expensive taxi service, older buses with steps, and the new process to book a seat on the city’s Action Bus.
Linda Healing, supervisor with the city’s community development department, said it would be irresponsible to make costly changes to transportation during a recession.
But the city will “leverage what we already have” and will look at implementing recommendations in the report like increasing seniors’ awareness of existing transportation options and giving them more input into planning.
“(The city) definitely has as their long-term goals to look, for example, at all 550 bus stops and make sure they are wheelchair accessible. But it’s a process. It takes time,” Healing said after she presented the seniors transportation report to about 100 seniors at a Central Alberta Council on Aging meeting held at the Golden Circle on Tuesday.
Increasing communication can also start now, she said.
“We can’t deal with it unless seniors are willing to step up and tell to us about it. By the same token, we’ll be working with those providers to make sure they’re communicating with seniors and letting them know how they can express a concern. It goes both ways.”
Sam Denhaan, president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging, said being independent is very important to seniors.
“I realize there is a limited amount of things that can be done, but sometimes small changes can make big differences,” Denhaan said.
Other recommendations in Understanding Seniors Mobility and Suitable Transportation in Red Deer include:
• Encourage seniors to plan for when they stop driving.
• Collaboration by service providers to increase options.
• Volunteer driver recruitment programs.
• More evaluation of existing services on how they meet seniors’ needs.
• Ensuring drivers who deal with seniors take sensitivity training.
• Make sidewalks and paths more senior-friendly.
Red Deer’s senior population is expected to grow from about 9,000, or 10 per cent of the city’s population, to 14.5 per cent by 2026.
The report will be on www.reddeer.ca in about a month.