Transportation for seniors in Sylvan Lake an ongoing concern

It’s a sunny morning. The birds are chirping and the sky is blue. You’re driving to work in downtown Sylvan Lake.

It’s a sunny morning. The birds are chirping and the sky is blue. You’re driving to work in downtown Sylvan Lake.

Just as you go to turn the corner, an elderly woman begins to cross in front of you. She stops in front of your car, waving frantically. As she approaches your car window, you roll it down and immediately see the look of sheer panic on her face.

She appears to be over the age of 70, holding a copy of the Calgary Sun in one hand and bag of purchased goods in the other. Although it doesn’t appear to be a particularly heavy bag, you can see she is struggling with the weight.

She explains to you how lost she was, appearing extremely frustrated with herself. She asks for directions to her residence at a nearby senior living facility. She asks how far it is away. From the end ofCentennial Street where you saw her, to the location of her residence it is exactly one kilometre and up one very ominous hill.

You insist on giving her a ride, opening the door for her to hop in and you begin to drive.

“Boy, I really was far from home,” she said as you drive around the block and continue up Centennial Street. Indeed she was far away you think to yourself and you begin to quiz her on how she came to be so lost.

She explained she needed to pick up a few things. Upon asking what her options were for transportation, she was informed it was either a family member or a taxi cab.

These are the options to residents at the Sylvan Lake Lodge with residents at Bethany Care Sylvan Lake having the same options with the addition of a service that will drive them to medical appointments.

Transportation for seniors is an ongoing issue facing Sylvan Lake, with transportation for youth and public transit also ranking among the top transportation challenges the community faces.

While Sylvan Lake’s population may be an overwhelmingly young one, as the overall population increases so to do the number of seniors we have in our community. According to the 2015 Social NeedsAssessment conducted by the Town of Sylvan Lake, the percentage of the population between the ages of 55 and 64 is growing at a rate of 1% every five years. This in turns means the age of residents over the age of 64 will begin to rise immensely in the years ahead.

This same study details the top priorities of Laker’s as being: urgent care, affordable public transportation, availability to low income housing, provision of local income and employment services. In addition, increased access to mental health and addiction supports, family counselling and early childhood development supports, as well as programs that reduces social isolation were also listed as priorities.

The Social Needs Assessment was the Town’s precursor to their Social Master Plan. Conversations are currently being held between the research group who conducted the Social Needs Assessment, theTown of Sylvan Lake as well as Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) and other groups with invested interest to provide solutions for the social challenges facing the community.

In the coming weeks, transportation for seniors will likely see a welcomed spotlight as the topic is set to hit Town Council in the near future.

***What has your experience with transportation for seniors been like in Sylvan Lake? How has the lack of these social services affected you personally?

Please email your response, story or letter to editor@sylvanlakenews.com or mail to 5020 50a St., Sylvan Lake, AB T4S 1R2***