Seniors tour community, share concerns about bus service

Coordinators with Community Action for Seniors' Independence (CASI) – a project that helps seniors maintain independent living through the help of volunteers who assist them with household tasks – arranged for a special bus to pick up participants where they live. Twenty five seniors registered to take part in the tour.

"One of the things that leads to independence for seniors is the ability to access transportation, and transportation is an important part of the CASI program, so when we were told by some seniors that they had some confusion concerning the transit system, Arlene (Thorpe) put on her thinking cap and came up with this wonderful event," said Linda Studley, lead coordinator for CASI in Dawson Creek.

"It is a good way for networking as well," added Thorpe, who recently joined the project as a volunteer coordinator. "It's not always they (seniors) get to meet other people in the community, so it's a very nice way to be able to socialize as well."

The tour took participants around to a couple of local businesses – M&M Meat Shops and the Old Fashioned Bakery – to hear about and sample some of the products they offer. It then stopped at Sudeten Hall for a lunch provided by M&M Meats, and for a discussion with Mayor Mike Bernier about some of the issues seniors would like to see addressed in regards to the bus service.

Some concerns that were voiced included the safety of intersections near bus stops, the location and accessibility of bus stops, and about the recent changes to bus routes, which have increased wait times for many riders in the city.

Bernier said he was impressed with the turnout for the event and pleased with the feedback, which he said will be valuable as city council continues discussions with the BC Transit Authority on how to improve the service.

He said ultimately the transit authority sets the routes, and the recent changes were made to increase ridership, which he said is critical to maintaining the service. However, he said BC Transit heard from the community during an open house held here several weeks ago about the inconveniences of the new routing, and he expects if changes are made, they will be implemented before the upcoming school year starts.

"If we know it's not working from the citys perspective, were going to be pushing them (BC Transit) as well," he added.

Bernier said City Hall will look for opportunities to improve the safety of intersections within the current budget. He said they will also look to remind motorists to slow down around bus stops and be aware of students and seniors at crossings whenever possible.

Generally, the tour seemed well-received by the seniors who participated. Roberta Gibson said she was pleased to see parts of the city she hasn't been able to see in a while, remarking that everything is growing so fast. She added it was great to visit with other seniors in the community.

"I like to getting out with elderly folks like myself and getting to know people. My husband passed away here seven months ago, and I'm kind of lonely sitting at home all the time."

She said the CASI project is "awesome" and she would recommend it to any senior in the community.

The tour was sponsored by M&M Meat Shops and the Old Fashioned Bakery, as well as Simple Pleasures, which provided gift baskets for draws made this afternoon, and Flowers by Charene, which provided bouquets for the tables during the lunch.