Policy & Advocacy
Seniors on the Move Key Messaging
Our population is aging. In Metro Vancouver more than one in four people will be 65 years or over within the next 15 years. Many will live into their 90s and beyond in the community (not residential care homes). Some of these individuals will face mobility and transportation challenges.
Transportation is a social determinant of health. Along with housing, health, and safety, transportation is foundational to individual and community well-being. Transportation is a prerequisite for a high quality of life. For seniors who face mobility challenges – and that’s roughly half of the population over 75 – lack of transportation is a barrier to basic services, social/civic engagement and health-care.
Existing systems present barriers for many seniors. Over the years, most North American cities, including Metro Vancouver, were built with cars in mind, the young or middle-aged, and the able-bodied, commuting to work. Public transit in Metro Vancouver offers an array of accessible travel options for passengers. All public transit vehicles and rail stations are fully accessible and the local service provider offers several types of assistance program to assist passengers with disabilities. In a few municipalities, cycling infrastructure is now being designed for all ages and abilities; this needs to become practice across the region. But more can be done. Transportation options need to connect seniors to where they want to go, and the built environment needs to provide more benches, curb-cuts and public washrooms, crosswalks with enough time for an older person to cross, and obstacles on sidewalks and pathways. Every block needs to be designed with seniors in mind, particularly those with mobility aids.
Seniors require more transportation options which meet the definition of the 5 A’s of senior-friendly transportation: accessible, available, acceptable, adaptable and affordable. Seniors need a range of transportation options that meet both their need for mobility but also the unique physical needs of individuals over 80. For many over the age of 80 personal car use is no longer a viable option. Based on the social determinants of health it can be argued that to successfully plan for the future of an aging population we need to build upon best practices and increase our capacity to move those individuals throughout the city.
The best transportation plan is a good ‘age-friendly’ land use plan. Strategic investments and long-term operational funding are required to build and maintain senior-friendly transportation systems, including public transit and para-transit services, offered by public and not-for-profit providers. Development of an integrated network with all the right characteristics calls for input from, and engagement with seniors organizations, municipal social planners, housing providers, health authorities and other stakeholders – in full-fledged age-friendly community planning.
Help is needed to navigate the options and promote lifelong planning. To help seniors learn about their transportation options, select the options most appropriate for them, and navigate the newly enhanced system as it evolves, we must seek to raise awareness, advocate for a seniors hotline and one-on-one support services and help seniors plan ahead for their changing abilities and transportation needs. In the process, all learnings on precisely how best to provide more senior-friendly transportation options to older adults in the community can be shared amongst stakeholders.
Did you know? Research shows that the average male will outlive his driver licence by 7 years, and the average female by 10 years?
Did you know? While 1-1.6km is often used as the standard acceptable walking distance, studies show that 400-500 m is a better indication of how far seniors are likely to walk to a destination, including bus stops. Slower walking speeds also mean that many crosswalk timers (optimized for 1.2 m/sec) are not lengthy enough for seniors to cross safely.
Did you know? For seniors, benches can acts as as mobility aids, improve mental health by increasing access to nature, reduce crime by adding eyes on the street, and increase social interaction among seniors. All that with some street furniture!
Did you know? A study by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) found that 50% of adults aged 50 and older reported not being able to safely cross the main roads near their homes, and that they would walk and bicycle more if they could.
Did you know, as riders age, fast, frequent, reliable service remains important, but the prospect of traveling without shelter or a seat becomes a greater deterrent to transit use.
Did you know? 7.4% of Canadians aged 85 and older rely on taxis as their main mode of transportation? This is why taxis need to be better adapted to the needs of seniors.
Did you know? Volunteer ride programs often fill the gap between paratransit services and public transit? Their popularity explains why many of them are oversubscribed.
Did you know? In 2006, there were an estimated 60, 000 mobility scooter users in Canada?
Frequently asked policy questions:
Who is responsible for maintaining bus stop amenities, like benches and shelters?
A: Municipalities, however TransLink often works with municipalities.
How do I request a bench or report a concern?
A: The City of Vancouver has a form here or you can use the Vanconnect app. You can also report a maintenance issue on a street or sidewalk, including snow removal. The City of Surrey also has an online submission you can use. The City of Maple Ridge also has an online submission form you can report concerns to. The City of New West uses the Click Fix App which you can download here. So far, we haven’t found any information for other municipalities. If you have some, let us know!
Who is responsible for the location of bus stops?
A: TransLink works with municipalities to determine the placement, using guidelines such as where people are going to and coming from, locations that will provide safety for passengers, including the location of crosswalks and signalized intersections.
Can I use my scooter or wheelchair in bike lanes?
A: due to low speed abilities, mobility scooter and wheelchair users are generally classified as pedestrians, and restricted to using the sidewalk.
If you are a senior, or know a senior, interested in getting involved in advocating for improving ways for seniors to get around, consider applying for Seniors on the Move’s Seniors Advisory Committee. The Seniors Advisory Committee meets quarterly to offer new initiative and policy ideas and provides feedback on current initiatives and policy. The Committee is made up of seniors from across Metro Vancouver who use a range of transportation options to get around.