Seniors in Big Lakes County have a new way to get out of the house and into their surrounding communities.
The county has purchased a wheelchair-accessible bus to provide expanded transportation options for local seniors. The bus will make two weekly trips to High Prairie, one trip per month to Grande Prairie and three monthly trips to Slave Lake.
The new service, developed with the expertise of the University of Alberta’s Medically At-Risk Driver Centre (MARD), provides a remote alternate solution for seniors and others in need of transportation because they are unable to drive or choose not to drive. MARD is supported through the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Seniors and Housing.
“Our government believes seniors should be able to lead active, fulfilled lives,“ says Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Seniors and Housing. “And we are pleased to invest in this project helping seniors remain connected to their communities.”
Nicole Hanna, the Family and Community Support Services manager with Big Lakes County, agrees.
“Transportation in rural areas is a day-to-day struggle for many individuals and it is our hope to ease that struggle by empowering them to take control of their own lives, and live happier and healthier.”
In February 2017, the MARD Centre invited proposals from remote Alberta communities to work with it on implementing sustainable new models of transportation for seniors in their areas. MARD first began working with Big Lakes County in May 2017, with financial assistance provided through the Ministry of Seniors and Housing.
According to Bonnie Dobbs of the MARD Centre, “each community or regional/remote group understands their needs best. The MARD Centre helps them in finding the right solution that makes sense for them, and that most often starts with helping them develop and implement a well-thought-out project plan.”
Over the past five years, MARD has worked with several rural communities to help develop alternate transportation for seniors, including Wainwright, Pincher Creek and Wetaskiwin.
January 31, 2019 is the launch day for the Big Lakes County Rural Transportation Service.