3 PART SERIES: Elderly

By: Randall Johnston

It’s easy to get lost in the detail and forget what the bus actually does for people

Randall Johnston explores the theme of how bus operators assist us in each stage of our lives, in the last of a three part series

Free bus fares for seniors are helping improve their mental and physical health of the older generation in South Adelaide (SA), according to research from the University of Adelaide.

Adelaide seniors citizens are making an average of 150,000 rides on public transport every week, with the provision of free public transport to seniors during off-peak times and BusSA executive director Lauran Huefner says the study shows bus operators and an engaged state government can play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of older people in the community.

"What we do know from research is that as people age, isolation or social exclusion becomes a greater risk to their health and wellbeing," he says.

"If older Australians don’t have access to services or some means of mobility, they are often excluded from simple activities such as visiting friends and relatives, getting out and about or other sports and leisure activities."

This social inclusion and engagement is key to older people having a high quality of life.

"This has clearly identified knock on effects about quality and enjoyment of life – that can be solved simply by helping those people travel," Huefner says.

"The work done by Helen Feist of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre from the University of Adelaide on seniors access to public transport off-peak in SA clearly indicates this."

The University of Adelaide study focused on the impact of free public transport has on older people, with more than 1300 surveyed.

"The results of our study are a resounding vote of support for the provision of free public transport to Seniors Card holders, and helps us to better understand what role this transport plays in their lives," University of Adelaide’s Australian Population and Migration Research Centre acting director Helen Feist says.

The study shows among Adelaide’s seniors, 10 per cent of drivers and 20 per cent of non-drivers use public transport.

"Most activities of daily living – such as shopping and paying the bills – are conducted in the local neighbourhood and involve other forms of transport," Feist says.

"However, public transport is often used for other life-enriching activities, such as volunteering, or civic and social engagements, going to the movies, visiting friends, or travelling to the city for a day out."

SA senior card holders are making more than 150,000 rides on public transport in the Adelaide metropolitan area every week.

"This means that our public transport system is being well utilised during off-peak periods. It also means that tens of thousands of cars are off the roads each week," Feist says.

"Improved mobility provides older people with a greater sense of independence and control, as well as feelings of active citizenship and belonging, which are critical to people’s wellbeing in later life."

"As Australia’s population ages, the ability to engage independently with the community through adequate and reliable transport is becoming more imperative."

The University of Adelaide study is supported by South Australia’s Office for the Ageing and the SA Government Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.


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