Presentation to the TransLink Board in Vancouver
By Sandi Wingrove of WE*ACT, June 2007
Women Elders in Action (WE*ACT) is a provincial network of senior women who are focused on economic security and human rights. Some of our urban members with physical challenges use HandyDART service extensively, in the centers where it is available. Others are recipients of Guaranteed Income Supplement which means they also qualify for a seniors’ bus pass. Other of our members do not use HandyDART nor have a bus pass. These women are forced to fend for themselves whenever TransLink decides to raise rates rather than find more creative means of balancing the books.
The myth of the new retiree rolling in dough is just that. The media is perpetuating a distorted image of the aging making it seem as though most of them will be retiring in Tuscany or purchasing recreational properties in the Okanagan. This is simply not so for many unattached senior women.
Previous research by the now defunct National Advisory Council on Aging shows that most seniors right across Canada hover just below or marginally above the poverty line.
There are many poor seniors in BC today. Twenty six percent of senior men and nearly half of senior women had incomes of less than $15,000 for the year 2002, according to the province’s own statistics.
Keep in mind that this very modest income is also fixed. Old Age Security is only partially indexed which means most seniors are steadily losing ground over the long haul. An increase in transit fares will exacerbate this. For these seniors, it could mean a reduction in their food or medication budget.
For many seniors, good bus service is not just the greenest option, it’s their only option. Without it, they would be house bound.
Women Elders in Action believes that raising transit rates at this time is a move in the wrong direction. More affordable, easily accessible and efficient bus service is required. Not more costly service.
We urge the TransLink directors to remember that one in four women in this province will be a senior in less than 25 years and will be those likely to need public transportation. This huge demographic on fixed income requires ongoing, wise pricing and service decisions.