A lack of wheelchair access vans is only one of the transportation problems faced by seniors in the Kootenays

Survey will assess need for Nelson carshare wheelchair van

Report finds big gaps in seniors transportation.

If you need to use a wheelchair access van in the Nelson area, and you don’t own one, forget it. Randi Jensen found this out recently when she decided to take her mother to a family gathering on a Sunday afternoon.

Her mother has dementia and lives at Jubilee Manor.

“When Mom was first in care, I took her for car rides, but she is now immobilized,” says Jensen, who lives on the North Shore.

“I thought, ‘Well, I could rent a van or pay for a taxi,’ but there was nothing available. I tried the HandyDART but it is very restricted. When someone has dementia you need flexibility.”

Jensen is one of the people behind a move to explore the feasibility of the Kootenay Carshare Cooperative buying a wheelchair access van. The carshare has posted a survey online, asking the public whether, how often, and under what circumstances they would use such a van.

The survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/S8YH2VS. Print versions of the survey can be picked up at Nelson CARES, 521 Vernon Street and at Nelson & District Seniors Coordinating Society, 719 Vernon Street.

Moving Together

The idea of involving carshare in transportation solutions for seniors is one of the recommendations in Moving Together: a Collaborative Approach to Addressing Seniors’ Transportation Barriers, published recently by the Nelson Cares Society.

“We know about the important connection between social isolation and seniors’ wellbeing,” says Corrine Youni, the lead author of the report. “We approached car share, and they said if we can identify there is enough of a need, they would consider it.”

Changes to transit system recommended

The report identifies a number of changes that could be made in the regional transit system to make life easier for seniors, but they involve tweaking the existing system rather than recommending new routes or more busses.

For example, Youni says, “We already have a bus that goes from the North Shore to Trail, but you have to change buses in Castlegar. We are trying to work with the transit providers. Maybe the passengers could stay on one bus and the drivers change buses, and we would like the stop to be at the seniors centre.”

And there needs to be a bathroom break, says Youni. She says some seniors will stop going places of they are “too worried about being able to have a bathroom break. If it is not made public that there is a scheduled bathroom break, they won’t go.”

But it’s not entirely about transit

The report also includes recommendations that HandyDART run twice a week from Kootenay Lake Hospital to Trail, that there be publicly owned shuttle buses, that doctors and the hospitals consider transit schedules when setting appointments, that more volunteer driver programs be created, and that a transportation animator position be created to develop multi-media education campaigns.

Rural seniors most affected

Youni says most seniors have not prepared for the day they can no longer drive. When that day comes, the resulting immobilization can effect shopping for food,  social life, medical care, and interaction with families. And she says that rural seniors are the ones most likely to be isolated.

“No one wants to think about getting older, and that the future might be quite different for us as time goes by,” says Youni.  “People who have driven their whole lives have never used public transit and assume it won’t meet their needs. We do have other transportation resources in the community.”

“A tsunami of baby boomers”

The report stresses the importance of public education aimed at seniors and at social agencies. That’s because the problem will only get bigger, Youni says, because there is a new breed of senior who won’t be satisfied to stay at home once they can’t drive.

“We have a tsunami of baby boomer seniors. A lot of them will be able to work or have to work, and a lot of them are very active. At the hub of this is transportation.

Many of  them are coming into old age with huge debt loads, minimal savings, and very small pensions.”

Carshare: a 10:1 ratio

Carshare coordinator Colleen Doyle says her organization will have to decide, after getting the survey results, whether it would be worthwhile to buy a van, although Youni says she hopes to fundraise for it or have it donated.

Doyle said the basic ratio is 10:1. To make one carshare vehicle worthwhile you need ten people who will use it regularly. But it’s not quite that simple.

“If those ten people say they would use it once a month, that would not be the level of usage we would need.”

Just Posted

Downtown Automotive awarded for hiring practices

The annual award is handed out by the Kootenay Career Development Society

Castlegar, Grand Forks areas to see cleaner winter roads under new contract

YRB set to take over 10-year maintenance contract on Monday

VIDEO: Nelson Tennis Club’s new home opens

The revitalized courts above LVR had their grand opening Saturday

Purcell withdraws from Nelson council election

First-time candidate Heather Keczan has also withdrawn

U.S. Court upholds Teck pollution ruling

Teck appealed a previous decision that it must pay $8.25 million in Colville Confederated Tribes’ court costs

VIDEO: Rare close encounter with whale pod spotted off B.C. waters

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

Rattie scores 3 as Oilers blank Canucks 6-0

Vancouver slips to 1-5 in exhibition play

Veterans Affairs ordered to take second look before supporting vets’ relatives

Liberal government ordered officials to adopt a more critical eye

Dead B.C. motorcyclist was member of group that raced down mountain road

Some group members record their rides on Strathcona Parkway and post times to page

Indigenous athletes in spotlight at BC Sports Hall of Fame

New gallery to feature Carey Price, Kaila Mussel and Richard Peter

B.C. couple who went missing on flight from Edmonton named by family

Family released a statement Wednesday saying they’re still intent on finding the two-seater plane

VIDEO: A close look at what you were breathing during the B.C. wildfire season

Electron microscope images show soot and tar particles generated by worst B.C. fire season

B.C. woman donates $250,000 to ovarian cancer research for friends

Two of Patty Pitts’s friends passed away from the disease within a year

B.C. could provide clues as to how New Brunswick electoral results shake out

Premier Christy Clark faced a strikingly similar scenario following the province’s 2017 election

Most Read