For many seniors, living longer can mean their world gets smaller—especially when they can no longer get behind the wheel. Giving up driving makes it harder for them to get to medical appointments, go shopping, run daily errands or take part in social activities. Loss of mobility can affect their ability to stay healthy and active in their communities, and may be stressful for caregivers and family members who often become the transportation providers when public options are limited or unavailable.
It’s a challenge familiar to researchers at the University of Alberta’s Medically At-Risk Driver Centre—and one they wanted to help communities deal with. Now, the centre has just launched a new resource called the Transportation Toolkit for the Implementation of Alternate Transportation for Seniors in Alberta. Created with funding support from the Alberta government, the free kit is a resource for communities that want to set up alternate transportation services.
“The lack of easily accessible and targeted information on how to develop and implement this type of transportation service is a challenge that rural and urban communities face in addressing the unmet transportation needs of seniors,” said Bonnie Dobbs, director of the MARD Centre and professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the U of A. “This toolkit addresses that need.”
“Having reliable and affordable transportation options helps seniors remain healthy, active and connected to their communities,” said Lori Sigurdson, minister of seniors and housing, who was on hand at the launch event for the toolkit Feb. 24.
One example of the guidance communities can find in the toolkit is how to set up a handivan program for seniors. The advice is based on results from a pilot project in the rural community of Wainwright, which saw ridership increase from 20 trips per month to 150 per month since the handivan service began.
MARD Centre researchers also held interactive workshops last year in seven Alberta communities: Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Grande Prairie and Cold Lake. The workshops showcased the steps needed to set up alternate transportation services and included information on how to handle issues such as insuring and purchasing vehicles, and setting up a not-for-profit organization.