If you’re anything like me, your heart sinks when it’s freezing cold or pouring with rain at the exact moment you need to catch a bus. There’s a chance you’ll get stuck if trains are cancelled and you worry about using a taxi as the price of everything, including taxi fares, keeps going up.
I sometimes think about how much worse it could be if I were catching that bus and had mobility problems, so can’t stand at the bus stop for long. Or if I were living with dementia and need to use that train? Or if I used a wheelchair and can’t rely on an accessible taxi to turn up on request, with a driver that will offer the assistance I need to get in?
We all know that connecting with friends or family, seeing acquaintances when out and about, and meeting up with like-minded people, can all help to reduce feelings of loneliness. But what if transport challenges hinder your ability to do just that?
At Leeds Older People’s Forum, we received a grant from the Department for Transport’s Tackling Loneliness with Transport Fund. We are now about halfway through Travel Connections our one-year pilot programme. We’re working with 17 separate organisations, all of which work with older people. Through these partnerships we’re doing lots of diverse projects, including: creating Senior Spin exercise classes, arranging social walking groups, helping older people to use travel apps, getting older people together to hear their experiences of using different travel options. We aim, across all the projects, to test out what does (and doesn’t!) work to improve access and reduce loneliness.
More than 450 people have already taken part in Travel Connections!
Transport is such an emotive topic for so many older people in Leeds. Our delivery partners have shared stories from the older people they work with, and we’ve gathered a few together in this learning briefing. There is also a great case study from The Conservation Volunteers, about a new walking group they set up, and a short film summarising a wonderful day out at a cycling taster session.
These stories show that investing a bit of time, effort, money and care into helping older people use different transport options to connect socially can really make a difference to their quality of life. We’ll be evaluating the different approaches over the coming months and will share our learning reports in May, when the Travel Connections pilot ends.
Monitoring and Evaluation Officer