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Seniors bus arrives in South Delta

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After a busy lifetime of independence and self-reliance it can be a shock to aging seniors to suddenly find themselves unable to do basic things like visiting friends or going grocery shopping.

That problem can be compounded by a lack of reliable transportation, either because they can’t drive anymore or the bus doesn’t run in their neighbourhood. It’s an issue that touched Delta Mayor Lois Jackson deeply, as she revealed in an interview with Something Good Magazine.

“Some of these folks were very vibrant in their youth, active participants in the community,” says the Mayor, who has seen firsthand the shifting demographics throughout her 44 years in office. “And you know, we all age and a lot of people start experiencing difficulty with mobility or an inability to drive. When that happens it’s quite a blow not to be able to move around your community as you once did.”

Jackson says seniors will often ask their adult children to help out by driving them to appointments, but that can be problematic for a number of reasons, not least of which being the feeling of guilt for relying on somebody whose diapers you once changed.

“When you have to rely on somebody, sometimes they can’t make it, or you feel you’re imposing on them,” says Jackson. “So lots of times people just become more and more homebound because it’s difficult for people to ask.”

The idea of a seniors bus in Delta was first explored three years ago out of frustration over a lack of public transit anywhere near the Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre in North Delta. The Mayor says longtime municipal engineering director Steven Lan had heard about a successful seniors bus program in North Vancouver and visited the community to learn more.

Shortly after, the city launched its first seniors bus in North Delta with a base of operations from the Kennedy centre. Jackson says the response was tremendously positive.

“In the long run this works better because people can just phone from their home. They don’t have to wait at a bus stop.”

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Fast forward to June of 2016 and the service has been expanded to South Delta with a base of operation from the McKee Seniors Recreation Centre in Ladner. After just one month, the municipality reports 146 seniors have registered for use of the bus, which seats 18 and comes fully equipped two wheelchair lifts and all modern accessibility options.

The Mayor says she’s hopeful this will give seniors the kind of independence they had when they younger.

“So when you simply phone the little bus and say, can you pick me up, I’d like to go down to the centre today at 2 o’clock, or tomorrow or the next day, you don’t feel that imposition as you would with a neighbour or somebody from your church or one of your kids having to make arrangements.”

The Delta Seniors Bus program was created in part with a $20,000 age-friendly grant from the province and the Union of B.C. Municipalities. It provides free pick-up transportation service for seniors in Delta offering access to local medical services, recreation centres, shopping locations and other community amenities.

Both buses run from 9:30 a.m. To 4 p.m., with service from Monday to Friday in North Delta and from Tuesday to Thursday in South Delta. To book a ride in South Delta, call 604-358-8765. North Delta riders can phone 604-353-6305.

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