July 21, 2019

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Transit rides a silver wave

Committee approves extension of eligibility for Handi-Transit

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/11/2010 (3161 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Transit is bracing for what one city councillor calls a "silver tsunami" -- a wave of seniors who will place new demands on Handi-Transit as baby boomers age and require more assistance.

On Tuesday, city council's public works committee approved changes to Handi-Transit eligibility that will allow people with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias to be eligible for rides, following an assessment by an occupational therapist.

The move will likely lead about 700 more people to use a Handi-Transit program that had 9,239 registrants at the end of 2009, client services manager Catherine Caldwell said in an interview.

That increase, she suggested, is modest compared to the demand for Handi-Transit expected over the next 10 to 15 years, as the baby boomers who started to retire this year enter their 70s and 80s.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/11/2010 (3161 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Transit is bracing for what one city councillor calls a "silver tsunami" — a wave of seniors who will place new demands on Handi-Transit as baby boomers age and require more assistance.

On Tuesday, city council's public works committee approved changes to Handi-Transit eligibility that will allow people with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias to be eligible for rides, following an assessment by an occupational therapist.

Lois Strong says some people using Handi-Transit services have other options.

PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Lois Strong says some people using Handi-Transit services have other options.

The move will likely lead about 700 more people to use a Handi-Transit program that had 9,239 registrants at the end of 2009, client services manager Catherine Caldwell said in an interview.

That increase, she suggested, is modest compared to the demand for Handi-Transit expected over the next 10 to 15 years, as the baby boomers who started to retire this year enter their 70s and 80s.

Earlier this year, a demographic forecast prepared by city economist Georges Chartier depicted the baby boomers as a bulge. By 2031, that bulge is expected to nearly double the number of seniors in Winnipeg.

"There's a silver tsunami on the way," said St. Charles Coun. Grant Nordman, who sits on the public works committee. It authorized the city to spend $132,000 more next year to hire 2.5 more Handi-Transit staff to handle the assessments.

The changes, which face approval from executive policy committee and council in December, also formalize Handi-Transit eligibility rules introduced in 2006, when some registrants complained the service was being abused by able-bodied riders.

That year, Winnipeg Transit started offering free rides on regular transit buses to people with Handi-Transit passes. It also started requiring all registrants to be screened by Handi-Transit staff — and then get reassessed every three years.

Assessments by occupational therapists are preferred to doctors' notes, Caldwell said. For example, some patients with arthritis may need the service, while others with the same condition do not — a distinction only an assessment can determine, she said.

"We were hopeful in 2006 we could get a better analysis of someone's functioning," she said. "In many cases, it's pretty obvious, (such as) if you're legally blind or you have an ongoing disability. In others, it's not as obvious."

Nick Ternette, a longtime activist who uses a wheelchair, said he does not believe occupational therapists can replace doctors. "They're trying to knock people out of Handi-Transit because that's their job," he said, claiming Winnipeg Transit has made "subtle changes" to Handi-Transit's new eligibility rules without discussing them with the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities.

Ternette said seniors who use Handi-Transit plan to challenge the fact there are no discount fares comparable to the ones offered to seniors who use regular transit. Offering such discounts would cost the city $257,000 a year, he said.

Caldwell said Handi-Transit has only received a single complaint about the fact the service doesn't offer discounts to seniors. Nonetheless, Winnipeg Transit is reviewing its rate structures, director Dave Wardrop said.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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