Getting Around – One of the Biggest Challenges for Canadian Seniors

Of all the senior issues that make the news, there’s one big one that gets little attention. We’re talking about transportation.

This Non-Issue is Actually a Big Issue

When thinking about senior care, the focus is often on making sure seniors have a comfortable place to live, food on the table, and the medical care they need. Transportation is often considered a secondary issue, but not having access to transportation can prevent a senior from getting even the most basic care.

Not having easy and affordable access to transportation can:

  • prevent a senior from attending crucial medical appointments for chronic illness or after being discharged from a hospital
  • lead to isolation and loneliness (statistics show that seniors who don’t drive are considerably less likely to participate in social activities)
  • place added stress on seniors who may already be dealing with other issues, such as poverty and loneliness
  • make it difficult to get groceries, contributing to poor nutrition and health

This isn’t only a problem for seniors, but all Canadians and our healthcare system. Inability to get to an appointment is one the most common reasons given for medical appointment no-shows. Not only does the senior miss out on being seen by the doctor, but when they don’t show up, another patient suffers if sufficient time isn’t given to fill the open slot. In Canada, the patient no-show rate is estimated to be between 10 and 30 percent.

Limited Options

Chronic health issues, loss of driver’s license, and neighborhoods with limited access to public transportation are just some of the things preventing seniors from getting around. Cost is also a factor for many seniors.

While some Canadian cities are looking for better options geared at seniors, the problem is far from resolved. In the United States, ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft are contracting with healthcare agencies and insurance companies to set up patients with rides. Slowly, but surely, similar partnerships are being considered here. Unfortunately, many older adults shy away from using ride-hailing services because they don’t know how to use the digital interface to order a ride, be it on their smartphone or computer. Also, because you’re required to enter payment information into the app, fear of senior scams and data breaches are other reasons seniors don’t take advantage of this option.

So What Are Seniors to Do?

The inability to get around is often the driving force behind seniors having to move into assisted living facilities. With the majority of Canadians preferring to age in place, finding alternative transportation is crucial.

Here are some alternative transportation options for seniors:

  • Ride-hailing services – These provide an alternative to taxis and are sometimes the only option for getting around, depending where you live. You don’t need to be a computer wiz to use technology like your smartphone or or computer to order a ride, but basic skills are needed. Many senior centers offer workshops geared at teaching seniors the basics – helpful not just for transportation, but also for access to medical records and other services.
  • Volunteer driving programs – Some communities have organizations that provide driving services for seniors. Some are free, while others charge a fee. You can find information about these services in your area by dialing 211 from any phone in Ontario or visiting 211ontario.ca.
  • Public transit – If you live in a city, chances are you have a public transit system. The majority of municipal transit systems offer discounted rates for seniors. Information about fares and schedules are available online, by phone, or at your local bus or train station.
  • Para-transit – This is a shared ride, door to door service for people unable to use regular public transit because of a physical or functional disability. Para-transit programs vary depending where you live. In some communities, service is provided directly by the municipality or their transit commission, in others it’s contracted out.
  • Community shuttles – Some hospitals, medical centers, and community centers offer shuttle services for patients and seniors. Speak to staff at your healthcare facility or community center to find out what transportation assistance is available.
  • Senior care companions – Transportation and escort services are part of the home care services that we offer. The service can be catered to meet your individual needs. For instance, if you require more assistance than just a pick up or drop-off, our caregiver companions can help. This includes help preparing for an appointment, accompanying you to your visit, and even taking notes at important medical appointments for you and your family. Our caregiver can be there to help before, during, and after your appointment or outing, no matter how long that may take. If you or your loved one also requires help getting dressed for appointments and settled back in after, we can help with that, too.

Canada has a long way to go when it comes to ensuring that seniors have access to reliable and affordable transportation. We hope that this information makes getting around a little easier in the meantime.

David Porter, CPCA
Director

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care

 

 

 

Article Resources
Access to Travel. Government of Canada. (2013). https://www.accesstotravel.gc.ca/1.aspx?lang=en
Profile of seniors’ transportation habits. Statistics Canada. (2015). https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-008-x/2012001/article/11619-eng.htm
The use of transportation by seniors in Canada. Statistics Canada. (2015). https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/16-002-x/2010004/part-partie3-eng.htm
Seniors Get Around. Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. (2019). https://www.ontario.ca/page/seniors-get-around
The Para-Transit Programs. Ontario Human Rights Commission. http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/whether-para-transit-services-provided-public-transit-services-cities-toronto-hamilton-london-and/para-transit-programs

Aging in Place: Things to Consider

Aging in place seems easy enough, in theory, but there’s more to it than just living in your home for the rest of your life.

Aging brings inevitable changes – some more challenging than others. More seniors want to stay at home and understandably so. Along with remaining in the comfort and familiarity of home, you also save a considerable amount of money each year.

Ponder this;

There are a few issues to consider when making the decision to age in place rather than moving to a senior care home:

  • If aging in place is your goal, you’ll need to consider your finances and the costs associated with remaining at home versus your income. If your only income will be coming from CPP, keeping up with home-related costs like mortgage payments, property taxes, and maintenance may not be easy. Will you be able to keep up and have money to cover any unexpected costs, like a leaky roof or broken water heater?
  • Getting around. Not all seniors are able or even want to drive for the rest of their lives. When the time comes to stop driving, you lose a lot of your independence. Consider how you will get around. Do you live near public transportation or have the budget to pay for taxis or car services? Do you have a strong support network close by in your family and friends who can get you where you need to go?
  • Your social network. Speaking of family and friends, socializing is one of the most important things to consider if you prefer to age at home. Socializing is pretty much built-in to daily life in most assisted living communities; there’s always someone there. Senior isolation is major issue in Canada and the rest of the world. Feelings of loneliness and the risk of depression, a worsening of physical and mental health, and even early death are known risks of senior isolation.
  • Your health. Even if you’re fit as a fiddle now, your future health needs to be considered if you want to remain in your home as you age. Consider any existing medical conditions and how they will change and affect you as you get older. Are your doctors close by and easy to get to? Is there a hospital nearby? Speak to your doctor about how your health is likely to change and any measures you can take now to keep you healthy enough to age in place.
  • Your home. Your home may work for you now, but will it be practical for you when you’re older? You need to consider the safety of your home and decide if it’s going to work for you in the future. Does your home have a lot of stairs? Do you have a shower that’s easy to get in and out of safely? Is your floor level and free of tripping hazards? Will you be able to access your laundry easily?

Things to Do to Prepare for Aging in Place

Along with the factors to consider that we just covered, here are some other things that you can do to help you prepare for aging in place:

  • Talk to your family. Talk to your adult children or other close family members about your plans to age in place. If possible, do it when you’re all together. This can help avoid confusion or tension should things change quickly, such as in the case of a crisis. The earlier you can discuss your plans and wishes with your loved ones, the better. Be frank about your wants and expectations, your finances, and other details that factor into your future. If you don’t have children or other family, consider a trusted friend or advisor, such as an attorney, who can help put your plans in place.
  • Prepare your home. Seniors and concerned family members often make the hasty decision to move to another home or an assisted living facility when health or mobility changes. An elderly care specialist or occupational therapist may be able to conduct a home safety inspection and make suggestions that can help you age in place safely. A few minor tweaks may be all that’s needed to make your home work for you, such as installing railings or a stair lift. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of having the right tools to assist with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as grabbers or adaptive clothing and shoes. If significant changes are needed, the sooner you know, the better you can prepare.
  • Learn about in-home care options. May people are surprised to learn that home care services aren’t limited to advanced home care assistance for seniors who are very ill or bedridden. The services offered by home care agencies cater to different needs and budgets. A professional caregiver can provide as much or as little assistance as you need with ADLs, such as meals, personal care, and housekeeping. They can also provide transportation to and from appointments or social activities and provide companionship to those who don’t have family or friends nearby to help prevent isolation.

With some advance consideration and planning, aging in place is possible even when life throws a few curveballs along the way.

David Porter, CPCA
Director

Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care