Transportation an issue for many seniors

Seniors in the North Okanagan can access rides through the Better At Home Program, but more volunteer drivers are needed

Many seniors live on their own and can no longer drive. Unfortunately, their desire to remain in their home is often unrealistic if they don’t have friends or family to rely on for help with getting to doctor’s appointments or to pick up groceries.

In this case, many seniors rely on taxis or the bus; that is, if they can afford taxi fare or walk to a bus stop.

In a community like Vernon, this very real situation is becoming increasingly common. In the coming years, delivering services tailored to an aging population will likely involve more financial and human resources, especially in communities like Vernon and Coldstream, where nearly 8,000 people are age 70 and older.

One such service that’s attempting to fill at least part of the need is the Better At Home Program, a ground-breaking initiative that provides seniors with support services such as transportation. The program, delivered locally by NexusBC Community Resource Centre since April 2014, offers simple, necessary services that allow a senior to remain in their own home for longer.

“Of all the services we provide, the biggest request by far is for transportation,” said Lisa Roberts, program coordinator with NexusBC. “And the demand is definitely a lot greater than what we can provide at this time.”

Roberts said that although the existing volunteers are filling a great need, there is a growing list of seniors still looking for rides.

“Volunteers are the heart and soul of the Better At Home program. The more people we can call on to drive a senior to an appointment, the more seniors we will be able to help.

“Not being able to go anywhere you want, whenever you want, feels like a prison sentence to many seniors. Driving a senior to the doctor or for groceries helps restore their sense of independence and can be a social outing.”

Those willing to drive a senior for even one hour a month will make a profound difference to someone that might be experiencing isolation and loneliness.

“Our volunteer drivers are making a huge impact, and we hope they know it. Without them, this would not be possible.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer is asked to contact Roberts at 250-545-0585. A free online criminal record check is conducted on all new volunteers.

The Better At Home Program is dependent on funding from the Government of British Columbia through United Way of the Lower Mainland, and by private donations.