When I took on the role of Project Development Officer for Travel Connections I sincerely felt it was an opportunity to address many of the transport issues that I had experienced in previous support roles at Age UK Leeds.
Having visited many older adults over the years I can clearly see how loneliness is an epidemic and often a big factor in dying prematurely. How can this be? And how can this happen when a solution could simply be finding ways of creating meaningful connection?
In most cases this starts with setting foot outside our own front door. Sometimes we don’t appreciate that leaving the home can be a challenge as we grow older. Without the correct support and various transport options it can lead to going out, especially independently, feel impossible.
So – thank you Department for Transport for providing the funding for Travel Connections and for having the insight to help us to help others Tackle Loneliness with Transport.
Our journey started with five themes: buses, taxis, community transport, travel conversations and active travel, covered by 11 projects with 18 delivery partners to transport people to a meaningful activity.
Our achievements in just one year have been phenomenal. LOPF and our fantastic delivery partners have recorded 4000+ attendances at activities. You can read some brilliant case studies in our end of programme summary but I can also give you a whistle-stop tour of just a few Travel Connections projects now! All aboard!
If you live in West Leeds you may have seen Bramley Elderly Action’s Happy Cab. This hybrid electric vehicle is booked by members to go to places, creating a sense of happiness. People shared the journey. Sometimes a mystery tour was fun in itself, then lunch, or a visit to a garden centre meant more flowering blooms of fun or bellies full of joy.
Next stop, ‘A Grand Day Out’: people coming together to visit local attractions and places of interest in Leeds via public transport. This amazing day would be documented and featured in Shine Magazine to share with its readers the accessibility and facilities of the location visited.
Any one for a trip? Shared Outings provided older adults at most risk of loneliness (‘VIPs’ as Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours aptly named them) with the opportunity to enjoy a fab day out, supported by staff and volunteers. After all, everyone – no matter what age – should have the opportunity for a fab day out. Just think how different you can feel when you get away for a day!
This project was hugely successful, supporting hundreds of members. I joined one of the outings and spent the day with two lovely members. We looked in shops and had lunch together and at the end of our day I can honestly say I had made two new friends. We had a group hug as we said goodbye and I said I will drop by at Cross Gates some time soon for a cuppa and to say hello.
Cycling with Confidence met Wheels 4 Fun, Meanwood Valley Urban Farm and Cycle North to create a fabulous day for our older adults to re-engage with two or three wheeled cycle riding. What fun was had as some of our cyclists got back in the saddle for the first time in decades, and two participants tried cycling for the very first time. They really put the ‘never too old’ mantra successfully to the test.
Taxi for AVSED really demonstrated how a local firm – SJK – can deliver an Age Friendly private hire service by taking time to understand the needs of the older members of their community. As Age and Dementia Friendly taxis was one of our project themes, LOPF hopes to continue influencing Leeds City Council Taxi Licencing to encourage all firms and drivers to support our seniors. Check out our Taxi Talk video on our website.
Twelve months have passed so quickly. Each week I have loved engaging with so many older adults and seeing the great results of Travel Connections. Many new friendships have been created, bus passes renewed and Senior Spin established. People have greatly increased confidence to travel, reconnected to cycling and mastered new digital skills. Most importantly, it’s brought so many people together.
The work done towards increasing transport options for older people has been inspiring and important – but so far it’s merely a light touch on the steering wheel. I, and LOPF, are hoping to continue to do innovative work on this crucial issue, and drive it much further. Let’s never forgot the role of transport in health and wellbeing. Projects like this, and others in the future, will support Leeds to be the best city to grow old in.
Special thanks to the participants, volunteers and staff at our project delivery partners, and to the transport providers who came on board. You have all supported this journey which has helped take many older people in Leeds far, and far from being alone. Thank you.
Would you like to know more about the impact of Travel Connections?
- Travel Connections: end of programme summary
- Executive Summary: Evaluation of Travel Connections Programme
- Evaluation of Travel Connections programme: final report
Travel Connections Project Development Officer