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UAlberta lends expertise to development of alternate transportation for seniors in Big Lakes County
By ROSS NEITZ on January 24, 2019
Seniors in Big Lakes County have a new way to get out of the house and into their surrounding communities.
Big Lakes County has purchased a wheelchair-accessible bus to provide expanded transportation options for local seniors. The bus will make two weekly trips to High Prairie, one trip per month to Grande Prairie and three monthly trips to Slave Lake.
The new service, developed with the expertise of the University of Alberta’s Medically At-Risk Driver Centre (MARD), provides a remote alternate solution for seniors and others in need of transportation because they are unable to drive or choose not to drive. MARD is supported financially through the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Seniors and Housing.
“I am thrilled to see the new alternate transportation service take off in Big Lakes County,” said Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Seniors and Housing. “Our government believes seniors should be able to lead active, fulfilled lives and we are pleased to invest in this project helping seniors remain connected to their communities.”
“Having this service available in the Big Lakes region means that seniors, the medically-at-risk and disadvantaged individuals will have a reliable means of transportation to medical appointments and other important events connecting them to their communities,” said Nicole Hanna, Family and Community Support Services manager with Big Lakes County. “Transportation in rural areas is a day-to-day struggle for many individuals and it is our hope to ease that struggle by empowering them to take control of their own lives, and live happier and healthier.”
“We know that a lack of alternate transportation affects quality of life and well-being for seniors in our province, particularly in rural and remote areas. It also increases social isolation,” said Bonnie Dobbs, director of the MARD Centre at the U of A and a professor of family medicine. “We’re excited to see the launch of the Big Lakes County Rural Transportation Service, a service that is specific to the needs of seniors in this region.”
In February 2017, the MARD Centre invited proposals from interested remote Alberta communities to work with it on implementing sustainable new models of transportation for seniors in their areas. MARD first began working with Big Lakes County in May 2017, with financial assistance provided through the Ministry of Seniors and Housing.
According to Dobbs, community input was essential to developing a plan that worked best for Big Lakes County.
“Each community or regional/remote group understands their needs best,” explained Dobbs. “The MARD Centre helps them in finding the right solution that makes sense for them, and that most often starts with helping them develop and implement a well-thought-out project plan.”
Over the past five years, MARD has worked with several rural communities to help develop alternate transportation for seniors, including Wainwright, Pincher Creek and Wetaskiwin.
January 31, 2019 is the launch day for the Big Lakes County Rural Transportation Service.