“Seniors are the heart of the community,” said Corrine Younie, who heads the Age Friendly Community Initiative at Nelson CARES. “That’s why I am committed to this.”
She was speaking at an open house Tuesday at which she introduced Dana Burgess, the newly hired West Kootenay seniors transportation animator.
“Seniors want to participate fully as citizens,” Younie said. “They want to do more than just go to doctor appointments, and transportation is at the heart of that. We don’t want a senior to give up their home or go into care simply because they can’t get to their medical appointments or the grocery store.”
At the open house, Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak ceremonially cut a ribbon hung across the room in front of Burgess’ desk.
“I want to become a presence in the community for seniors, with doctors offices, with other service providers,” Burgess said. “I can be the stitch that holds it all these pieces together and connects to all those things.”
Corrine Younie, left, and Dana Burgess (Bill Metcalfe photo).
Burgess’ job will be to help seniors navigate the sometimes confusing array of transportation options including transit, volunteer driver programs, HandiDart, and Rideshare. She will also educate the public and service providers about those options and the reality of trying to get around as a senior. She will also travel the West Kootenay meeting with seniors, working with them to help them plan for when they are no longer able to drive.
“And in a region like this,” said Younie, “we have challenging terrain, winter roads, long distances and lots of seniors living out in rural areas, and they become very isolated simply because they cannot get out of their homes, and as they start to age they might be giving up their driving privileges.
“For instance, if you are making an appointment for a senior who lives in Kaslo for the Trail hospital you don’t make it at 9 a.m. because how are they going to get there?”
Younie says the West Kootenay is in for a surprise in the next couple of decades.
“Across Canada we are facing baby boomers aging into the system, and this is a popular area to retire, so we will see larger numbers here than other places. They are quite different from their parents. They are aging into a system with small pensions, high debt loads and minimal savings. So poverty will be an issue and that will impact their need for services.”
In April, Younie wrote a detailed report entitled Moving Together: A Collaborative Approach to Addressing Seniors Transportation Needs. It is attached below.
The transportation coordinator hiring is part of the Moving Together project, funded by the Osprey Foundation, Vancouver Foundation, Columbia Basin Trust and West Kootenay Transit Committee, the Association of BC Community Response Networks, and Areas E and H of the Regional District of Central Kootenay.