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.
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
Living Assistance Services – Senior Home Care
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