Bus service connects rural seniors to more than shopping
The five-seat minibus stops outside Linda Wildhagen’s Waterdown home, and the driver gets out to help her gingerly make her way down a slippery driveway. She’s hardly settled in her seat before she’s enveloped in the warm chatter. How are the grandchildren? How has she been surviving the recent ice storms? Did she know ground beef was on sale?
The rural seniors’ grocery bus, which runs twice a month in Flamborough and Ancaster and once a month in Glanbrook, is ostensibly a low-cost, door-to-door transportation service for ambulatory seniors who can’t easily get to the store without depending on friends and family for a ride. In reality though, the $7 round trip is about much more.
“It’s a social occasion,” Linda acknowledges. “Most of us are on our own. Because of the bus, we know about each other’s families. We send birthday cards. We go to other social events together.”
Flamborough Connects is the lead partner on the project, with assistance from Glanbrook Community Services and Ancaster Community Services. Initial funding came from the Ministry of Transportation. Support from Hamilton Community Foundation has allowed the project to continue while the three agencies collaborate on a long-term sustainability plan. The service is popular in each of the communities, and some weeks there’s a waiting list.
A primary goal is reaching seniors at risk of social isolation. One in five residents in Hamilton’s rural area is over 60 years old, says Amelia Steinbring, executive director of Flamborough Connects, and without the grocery bus, some of them don’t get out at all.
“Helping seniors stay in their homes and manage independently is a huge motivator for us to keep it going.”
For Linda, the bus represents freedom. But it’s also proof that people are paying attention. “When you’re elderly, you’re invisible,” she says. “This bus makes you feel special. We’re so grateful that there’s a community out there that cares about our age group.”
Excerpt from 2019 Annual Report