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Alternatives to Driving

Most of us want to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. Therefore, when we start to think about limiting the amount that we drive, we also have to find alternative ways to get around. And as much as we need and rely on the support of our loved ones in getting us where we want to go, it’s important that we – as much as is possible – have ways to get there on our own and on our own schedule.

We’ve attached a list of alternative transportation options for you to consider. It’s important to remember, however, that many people live outside urban areas, without access to taxis and public transportation. In those cases it is especially important that loved ones ensure that alternative transportation is readily available for loved ones with lessened driving capacity.

Family and Friends

Many older adults ask their family and friends for rides. However, some non-drivers may feel guilty asking for assistance. Building strong relationships earlier in life can make the transition easier. Requesting rides from a number of different people, based on the activity and timing, is also important. Think about family and friends who might share your interests or needs. Try to build relationships with drivers of all ages.

Volunteer Driving Programs

After decades of experience at the wheel, moving to the passenger seat isn’t easy. Catching a ride with family and friends is the top alternative to driving for older adults. If that’s not an option look for local, not-for-profit organizations that connect seniors with volunteer drivers who offer transportation for shopping, medical appointments, and other activities.

Many volunteer driving services offer ‘door-through-door’ services perfect for individuals with limited mobility, and advanced booking is often required. Many pay mileage and liability usually falls under your regular auto insurance policy without extra cost.

Walking and Cycling

On some occasions, walking or biking can replace the need to drive. Baskets, small carts, or delivery services can be used to deal with purchases or bulky items. These options are not practical for everyone, especially in bad weather or on icy streets, however, they can provide physical exercise, as well as more autonomy.

Public Transportation

Where it’s available, public transportation – including buses and subway systems – is an inexpensive and often convenient way to get around in your community. But if someone has never, or only rarely, used public transit, doing so could be intimidating. A good idea might be to take public transportation occasionally before driving is no longer an alternative, to become familiar and comfortable with it. The cost-savings, and convenience (not having to find or pay for parking, for instance) might even make the bus or subway a very attractive option to taking the car. As an added bonus – it’s helping the environment!

Tips for using public transportation

  • Factor in the distance that must be walked to the bus stop or subway platform, as well as available seating along the route in case riders get tired.
  • Stay safe by ensuring the bus stop or subway platform has good lighting and other people around. Also look for covered waiting areas in case of bad weather.
  • Don’t forget to consider the return trip. If making a trip to the supermarket and need to carry groceries home, seniors may become too tired and need assistance.
  • Try making a few trips with someone who is very familiar with the system. This person can demonstrate how to travel your required routes, and how much each route will cost. This should make the first trip alone much more manageable and less intimidating.

Contact your local transit authority for routes and information. Many transit authorities offer special seniors fares and services.

Paratransit

This is a form of public transportation that uses flexible routing and scheduling. These services use mini buses or vans. Passengers are picked up at their door and dropped off at the door of their destination. Bookings are usually made ahead of time and riders can generally expect longer rides and wait times, as paratransit serves multiple passengers.

Accessible Transportation

For those who are unable to use most taxis and some forms of public transportation because of a disability, there are often well-established door-to-door accessible transportation alternatives within your community. Accessible busses, vans and sedan taxis are often used for these services. Often, these services are available for the same cost as public transportation.

Check with your local transit authority for information on accessible transportation. Another excellent source of information is your local chapter of the Canadian Council for People with Disabilities.

Non-profit Community Bus Services

If you live in a rural or small community where public transit does not exist, there may be a mini bus or van operated by a non-profit organization or the municipality. Generally, these services give priority to seniors and persons with disabilities. Some operate only in the community and sometimes make regular trips to the nearest city for medical appointments, shopping and other purposes. Most charge a fee to help cover expenses such as gas, a paid driver and vehicle maintenance.

Private Group Transportation

Some seniors’ residences, day programs, recreation centres, tour companies and retail businesses such as shopping centres, offer free or fee-based transportation services. For example, some individuals pay for occasional group or individual trips in the seniors’ residence bus as part of their rent. Some shopping malls and casinos offer free transportation to encourage purchases. Tour companies offer day trips and longer vacation travel. Many seniors’ recreation groups offer day trip transportation opportunities and tours to local sites and events.

Taxi and Limousine Services

Most urban communities have fee-based taxi services. Some companies train drivers to work effectively with older people. Taxis provide opportunities for individualized travel at specific times. Some taxi companies sell coupons or other pre-paid tickets and offer discounted fares for seniors.

For Profit Transportation Services

Many new assisted-driving services have emerged in recent years. For a fee, a driver will provide appropriate individualized transportation. Most of these services will assist passengers with other tasks for additional fees, such as shopping help or waiting at a medical appointment, if requested. Operators have varied training that should reflect the services being provided. Check the cost, the reputation of the company and be sure they have appropriate insurance and worker screening in place.

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