Transportation: It’s a big issue for senior citizens

So, who’s going to take mom to the store? Impacts of aging and loss of mobility introduce all kinds of new issues for people who, in earlier stages of life, thought nothing of jumping into the car and running a few errands.

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So, who’s going to take mom to the store?

Impacts of aging and loss of mobility introduce all kinds of new issues for people who, in earlier stages of life, thought nothing of jumping into the car and running a few errands.

The loss of driving privileges is, in itself, extremely traumatic for people who must suddenly depend on others to get around, says Linda Healing, community facilitator for the City of Red Deer.

In recent weeks, the city’s Seniors Transportation Committee has been collecting research and is now writing a report to be released this summer.

Results of the research, including a survey of 313 Red Deer seniors, were shared on Wednesday during a meeting with various service groups, transportation providers and city departments.

A summary of the research findings show that mobility and transportation are key to helping people live independently.

Issues around transportation planning are rising as the proportion of seniors in the population expands, says the summary, co-authored by Healing and Franklin Kutuadu, community researcher in the Social Planning Department. Seniors now make up nearly 10 per cent of the population, compared with 7.4 per cent in 1986.

Red Deer needs a shift in its transportation philosophy to meet the needs of that growing population, says the summary.

“Few transportation providers and planners ask about seniors’ mobility difficulties or difficulties in using transportation services, or about solutions to overcome these difficulties,” it says.

Seniors advocate Sam Denhaan, president of the Central Alberta Council on Aging, said it’s good to seek out the gaps and talk about ways to fill them, but providing those services takes money.

As Alberta pushes for privatization of services and backs away from the concept of universality, there will be less money available to ensure that suitable transportation systems are in place for all seniors, said Denhaan.

Andrew Dale, executive director of the Golden Circle, said his organization has a group of volunteer drivers available to help seniors go shopping, attend appointments and so on. However, there are only 16 volunteers available now and the demand for their services is huge and constantly growing.

“It’s going to take all of us to solve this,” said Dale.

Sponsored by the Alberta Motor Association, similar meetings have been held throughout the province, said Caroline Gee, advocacy and community services program co-ordinator from the AMA’s head office in Edmonton.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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