Senior Wheels bus helps people get around

HalifaxChronicle Herald

Bridgewater – Almost 200,000 people have used the Senior Wheels bus since 1992. That was the year the service was put in place to offer free transportation to people over 60 years of age — and to individuals of any age who have a disability — to help run errands, keep medical appointments, meet friends and do their weekly grocery shopping. And just as the old song says, the bus goes all through the town, and even provides transportation up to seven kilometers outside the town’s boundaries in any direction.

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Jerome Tanner, volunteer driver, assists Max Lohnes to board the Senior Wheels bus that services Bridgewater and immediate area.

The service is provided free of charge due in part to the financial support that is received from the United Way of Lunenburg County, South Shore Regional Hospital Auxiliary, the Town of Bridgewater, the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg, and Bridgewater and Area Lions Club and the many volunteer bus drivers and board members. The Senior Wheels Association also conducts lotteries and offers advertising opportunities and a donation box inside the bus.

“The United Way of Lunenburg County has been a financial supporter of the Bridgewater Senior Wheels Bus since 2011,” says Michael Graves, the Coordinator of the Lunenburg County United Way Program. “In that time we have invested $30,000. This money is used to give isolated seniors in the greater Bridgewater Area the opportunity to reengage with their community. This could be a trip to the bank, the store, a doctor’s appointment, coffee with friends or a simple drive around town. Socialization is important for our seniors and helps to contribute positively to their wellbeing.”

The service is provided six days a week and by special request at night and on Sundays. The bus service is available regardless of where a client lives, a seniors’ residence, an apartment building or in one’s own home within the service area. The majority of the bus drivers and the members on the board of directors are seniors who come from diverse backgrounds and careers, and they are volunteering their time and talents to an organization that they see as valuable to the community.

There are currently opportunities available for men and women who would like to volunteer to be one of the bus drivers for Seniors Wheels.

Any applicant will receive extensive training including instruction on the operation of the wheel chair lift, and all the pre-trip and post-trip requirements. The policy and procedures handbook will be discussed in detail and any questions answered. Volunteer drivers have flexibility in setting which shifts they prefer. The bus operates Monday to Saturday weekly and a shift is usually a morning or an afternoon, although there are some evening outings, especially during the Christmas season. No special driver’s license is needed.

Clients using the bus service are asked to book as far in advance as possible, but a minimum of at least three days notice is essential. This helps with scheduling. If for some reason a client’s plans change and the bus is no longer needed, a simple phone call to cancel the booking is also requested. This gives someone else a chance to use the bus seat.

Melba Lantz has been the president of the board of directors of Senior Wheels for seven years. She has cared for family members who relied on others to get out and about and she knows how important it is for seniors to be able to be independent and self-sufficient. She keeps volunteering with Senior Wheels because she believes in what the organization is doing and she finds the work rewarding.

The secretary of the board of directors of Senior Wheels started volunteering over a decade ago when he and his wife moved to the Bridgewater area. Fred Speth was involved in a similar program through a Kiwanis club in Ontario and he had seen just how valuable transportation is for seniors and for someone with a physical disability.

“Talk to any of the clients and you will quickly hear just how valuable and appreciated the service is,” Speth commented. “It’s important for seniors to stay active. Sitting doesn’t accomplish anything; it isn’t good for your health or your community. It’s important to be involved.”

Senior Wheels Bus service may be accessed by telephone at Scotia Business Centre 902-543-2255. Anyone interested in helping the wheels on the Senior Wheels Bus keep going round and round by becoming a volunteer bus driver is asked to call Melba Lantz at 902-543-1544 for more information