The Hay River Seniors’ Society is making it easier for members to get to its various activities.
The society has introduced a taxi pass for any member who may have trouble walking or driving, such as those with impaired vision, and for those who would have trouble paying for taxis.
“Access to transportation has been an issue for seniors here,” said Bruce Green, a board member with the society. “This time of year it’s hard for elderly people to get around.”
So the society has received $3,025 in funding from United Way NWT for the taxi passes, which it describes as a pilot project.
“We’re not sure how far the funding will go but at least we’ll cover the winter,” said Green.
The funding will pay for taxi rides for seniors until the money is all gone.
Green said the two taxi companies in Hay River – Reliable and Island – will keep records of the rides with the passes.
“Each of the cards will be numbered and then they will just bill us at the end of the month,” Green said. “So it’s quite convenient for us to operate.”
The society got the passes on March 8 and is just beginning to distribute them.
One possible user will be Green’s wife, Marilyn Green, who is visually impaired.
“If Bruce is not around, for sure I would,” she said, noting she is legally blind and has not driven a car for about 15 years.
In fact, Marilyn Green helped come up with the idea for the taxi passes after trying to organize a meeting with other visually-impaired people in Hay River.
“As I was phoning around, people would say, ‘I can come if I can get a ride,'” she said. “And that really kind of affected the numbers of people who were able to get out. So I thought, ‘Well, wait a minute.'”
Her husband said that situation made the society aware that there’s a need.
Marilyn Green said the taxi pass will help her, especially in winter.
“It’s going to mean a huge improvement in my feeling of independence,” she said.
The Greens estimated there may be 10 to 15 seniors in Hay River affected by vision loss, and perhaps another 15 to 20 unable to drive or with difficulty walking because of age or injury.
Bruce Green said it is also an expense for some seniors’ to come for coffee, lunch or an evening program.
“It might be more than their budgets can really support,” he said.
Green said the society’s programming is a very good opportunity for social interaction and offers great camaraderie.
“So I think anyone who is elderly and is not able to get out very much would really benefit a lot from it,” he said.
Jacq Brasseur, the campaign co-ordinator and administrator with United Way NWT in Yellowknife, is not aware of the organization ever funding a similar project.
“As far I know, I don’t think we’ve ever received a project that’s quite like this,” she said.
Brasseur said it is very important for seniors to socialize.
“So many seniors experience isolation and feelings of loneliness,” she said. “Being able to go to activities held by the seniors’ society is really important, and we’re excited to be able to facilitate that process.”