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Canadian seniors in need of safe, reliable transportation options

A national seniors’ advocacy organization says nearly half of Canadian seniors report not having access to transportation that meets their needs for medical appointments.

Laura Tamblyn Watts is the CEO of CanAge, Canada’s National Seniors’ Advocacy Organization and says older adults who lack access to reliable transportation services suffer from worse mental health, lower quality of life and are less likely to be able to receive health care, including vaccinations.

"We know that unless we solve the seniors transportation problem now, it's only going to get worse soon as our population rapidly ages," said Tamblyn Watts. "It is one of the top three barriers to aging in place."

Tamblyn Watts is looking for input from seniors, their loved ones and other stakeholders from all across the country through a program called F.A.S.T Track, a national initiative to support transportation innovation.

"We're going to create the first report in Canada that has brought these things together," she said. "We're going to send those to government, we're going to bring together a big summit on it in May and out of that, we're going to work with communities to help amplify the ones that are working and solve the problems that aren't."

The Calgary Seniors Resource Society has 270 volunteer drivers for 1,600 clients. Matthea Libman is its essential transportation program coordinator and says the society needs more drivers.

"We've more than doubled the seniors that we have registered at this point," said Libman. "We have over 150 people on the waitlist so without more drivers we can't help those people so yeah, we need way more drivers."

Ernest Powell hasn't driven in 15 years. The 90-year-old regularly gets rides from volunteers with the society to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre for his treatments.

"One thing with this particular service does is make me completely relaxed, as aware on who I am going with," he said. "This is a very important process for me personally and without this, I would not have been able presumably to survive as long as I have."

Powell has been helped by volunteer drivers for a year. Prior to that he used public transit and had to make two transfers because he lives in southeast Calgary.

"First of all, catching a bus, then catching a train all the way to almost to my destination, and then getting a final bus," said Powell. "That would have taken me in total time, about two and a half hours."


Jim Stinson retired five years ago and volunteers his time to driver seniors to appointments.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to be able to provide some assistance to these seniors," he said. "I mean, if I can reduce the stress on them just a little bit it just makes it a whole lot easier, I can do it at my own schedule so it fits into my lifestyle very well and I've been able to give back to the community in my retirement years, and I may need this down the road."

Tamblyn Watts is hopeful that by gathering information from all across the country seniors transportation will improve.

"What we know is that individual communities come up with creative solutions, or address their own barriers," she said. "There is no place that shares both the barriers and the successes."

Learn more about F.A.S.T. Track and the Calgary Seniors Resource Society on line: Top Stories

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