A 2012 Statistics Canada Profile of Seniors’ Transportation Habits reveals that the majority of older adults in Canada drive their own car as a means of transportation. As an individual gets older (85 plus), this changes to becoming a passenger in a private vehicle. A small percentage of older adults use public transit, walking or bicycling to get around, and the rest use accessible transit or taxis.
The report points out that older adults who drive their own car are more likely to participate in “social activities – such as family, educational or cultural activities done with others”. Participation in these activities may be a vital component of an older adults quality of life. For some older adults transportation to these events can become a barrier to participation. These older adults run the risk of becoming socially isolated.
Fortunately, many communities recognize the need for older adult transportation services. For example, North Vancouver received federal funding for the Silver Harbour Seniors’ Activity Centre as part of its North Shore Seniors Connect: Transportation and Connectedness Pilot Project. The Silver Harbor Seniors’ Activity Centre recognizes that in addition to offering activities for older adults it is also important to reach out to those individuals who may not be able to participate because of transportation issues.
Public transit may be difficult to access in parts of Canada and the harsh winters can amplify this difficulty, leaving many individuals to rely on alternate means of transportation, or stay indoors. The Region of Halton in Ontario asked older adult residents about their experiences with transportation. Here is what they found:
- Access to reliable, affordable transportation is a key factor in Oakville seniors’ sense of independence and community connectedness.
- Public transit in Oakville has improved for many seniors, but there are still areas where improvement can be made (e.g., affordability for low income seniors, driver training for those with assistive devices; better communication about fares, routes and schedules).
- Cost of transportation is a barrier to mobility for lower income seniors, especially taxis.
Transportation is an important but often overlooked factor that allows older adults to remain connected to their community. As the Canadian population ages the need for affordable, safe and reliable transportation for older adults will increase. What are the transportation options in your community?