Above: Emily Hussey making a presentation.
by Lucie Roy
The Sturgeon Regional Senior Transportation Open House was held last Wednesday night at the Gibbons Cultural Centre.
The event had more than 140 seniors in attendance to get updates on the Sturgeon Region Developing and Implementing of a Rural Regional Alternative Transportation Services (ATS) service for seniors and those medically at risk to drive.
The Sturgeon Mobility-Assisted Regional Transportation (SMART) Van working team consists of municipalities working collaboratively.
The team consists of Jodi Brown and Jacqueline Moren of Redwater, Mike Dubriel and Laura Schmidt of Gibbons, Susan Pearce of Legal, Jennifer Larson of Bon Accord, Melonie Dziwenka of Morinville, Susan Berry and Shelly Chubb of Sturgeon County and Olya Goultiaeva of St. Albert and Sturgeon PCN with assistance from Doctor Bonnie Dobbs and Emily Hussey from the Medically At-Risk Drivers Department (MARD) of the University of Alberta.
There were three presentations, Bernie Buzik of Wainwright, Emily Hussey of U of A and the third by Jodi Brown, Town of Redwater Community Services Manager and Shelly Chubb, Sturgeon County FCSS on the organization committee and where they are at.
Buzik of the Wainwright and District Handivan Society spoke of their approach and challenges they experienced in providing transportation for those who could not drive themselves.
Enabling the Transportation Mobility of Older Adults was presented by Emily Hussey, Research Coordinator, U of A.
In her presentation, Hussey spoke of Alberta’s Aging population.
Hussey said, “In 2017 530,000 Albertan’s were aged 65 and older, which is 13% of the population. By 2035, the number of seniors in Alberta is expected to top 1 (one)million and exceed 1.1 million by 2040. By 2046 one in five Albertan’s will be 65 or older.”
The importance of transportation and driving is increased as older adults who drive decreases with age.
Hussey spoke of the unmet transportation needs for Medical Appointments, Essential Services such as groceries and Recreational, Leisure and Religious Activities and the reliance on family or friends for transportation.
The SMART Van Project Timelines and Phases were presented with a background on the completion of Phase 1- Proposal Submission and Phase 2- Project Plan and emphasis on Phase 3- which is to Launch SMART Van Service.
Phase 3 requires finalizing the operational budget, develop an operating model, develop a funding model and fee structure, develop governance structure and secure funding.
Crucial to the SMART was the completion of the survey which was made available to all attendees at the event.
The survey will provide valuable information on the current needs and requirements in the region and how they will move forward.
The survey covered age, where the seniors lived, if they were able to drive, where they drove, locally or out of town, who they rely on for transportation, what prevents them from taking trips outside the home, and f they feel there is a need for regional transportation in our communities and if they would be interested in volunteering on this project as drivers, scheduling coordinator, fundraising or as a committee member.