Green Action Centre and Transportation Options Network for Seniors form a partnership
In a province where the only option to travel between communities is a private vehicle, and a city where transit access is limited in some neighbourhoods, owning a vehicle can seem like a necessity. But what happens as residents age and lose the ability to drive or the person they rely on to drive them?
Having the ability to easily and independently move around our community is a key ingredient for a high quality of life. A partnership between Green Action Centre and Transportation Options Network for Seniors (TONS) brought a Mobility Fair for Older Adults, supported by a grant from The Winnipeg Foundation, to the River Heights Community Centre on September 13. The fair took place on a sunny fall day and featured a range of organizations focused on mobility and transportation for older adults. Offerings included a myriad of bikes, e-bikes, trikes, and other options that could be tested by participants on-site, with a goal of showcasing multimodal transportation options that can lead to a healthy, independent, and sustainable lifestyle, and on building the foundational skills needed to use these options.
“To be a senior in this city is super challenging, logistically,” says Josep Seras Gubert, executive director of Green Action Centre. “We think that it’s important to offer these healthy and independent options for seniors, because they are more at risk of being dependent on other people or being isolated.” Seras Gubert hopes that learning more about multi-modal transportation will give people the confidence to try different options.
Samantha Rodeck, executive director of TONS, echoed this sentiment: “We want everybody to be able to drive, but there’s also a large percentage of people that may not have ever driven or may not have the financial means to drive. So, we see that there’s a lot of driving reliance.” She adds that it’s also not always feasible to be “reliant on family and friends for transportation.”
The partnership between the two organizations was a natural fit – Green Action Centre brought its knowledge of active and sustainable transportation and its commitment to working with more vulnerable communities, while TONS brought its extensive community connections. As a team they pulled together organizations including but not limited to Bike Winnipeg, Peg City Car Co-Op, The Plain Bicycle Project, Winnipeg Transit, Easy Street Rehabilitation, and The WRENCH to engage older adults at the fair.
Rodeck explains that TONS views transportation as a skill; not everyone knows how to ride a bike or take a bus. The mobility fair’s focus on building skills helps ensure older adults have freedom in their community to access resources and goods including basics like groceries, health appointments, employment, and volunteer opportunities. Learning how to use different forms of transportation can help people stay independent as their abilities change throughout the course of their life.
“You would be surprised,” she says, “Even getting to church, to a doctor’s office, or going for coffee with a friend is a huge challenge for many people. So multimodal transportation will really alleviate that. We know not everybody can ride a bike, but we hope that they will be able to think a little bit broader than just one way of getting around.”
Part of educating people is changing the assumptions they may have about different types of transportation.
“It’s about helping people have access to their community and staying independent for as long as possible, because we focus on using an aging in place lens. When we create these environments and provide education, it helps people see that biking isn’t just good for kids, it’s good for older adults. It gives people the flexibility to decide ‘Maybe I don’t want to take the bus today, or maybe I don’t want to drive, but I will walk or use the scooter instead.’”
Seras Gubert says the benefits of multi-modal transportation are essential to accessing resources in the community, but that using these modes of transportation has additional benefits.
“Unless you have the independence to move around, aging can lead to mostly sitting indoors, or sitting in a private vehicle before moving indoors,” says Seras Gubert. “A healthy, independent, and sustainable lifestyle increases your connection to other people. You can get a more connected sense of community. It’s a holistic approach to lifestyle, all of these interesting pieces that connect us to nature, and the community. You meet new people, you trust other people, and that is essential. Those are some of the values society should promote more, because it creates a ripple effect of the things we can share as a community.”
To learn more about Green Action Centre, visit www.greenactioncentre.ca.
To learn more about TONS, visit www.tonsmb.org.