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April 30, 2008 > Pathways to Positive Aging: Seniors on the go! - Learning how to use public transit

Pathways to Positive Aging: Seniors on the go! - Learning how to use public transit

By Shawn Fong, Paratransit Manager, City of Fremont Human Services

Connie Karasek had not been on a bus since 1957, when she used to take public transit to high school. Back then, she recalls the bus fare was 10 cents. Now, 50 years later, she and a dozen other residents at Chapel Corners Senior Apartments are learning about the 85 cent senior discount fare on AC Transit and local bus routes that can take her and her neighbors to the grocery store, Kaiser Permanente, Washington Hospital, the Fremont Hub, NewPark Mall and other local destinations.

The recent workshop at Chapel Corners marked the launch of the Tri-City Travel Training Program. The pilot program, which is part of the Pathways to Positive Aging project and is funded through Measure B, is designed to familiarize groups of seniors with local public transportation options so that they can travel independently and stay involved in the activities and services that are important to them.

Although Connie still has a car and her license, she doesn't drive as much as she used to. "Gas prices are outrageous!" she said, "It's really hard for seniors on fixed incomes." For other Chapel Corners residents, learning how to use public transit meant that they would not have to rely on and burden family and friends for rides.

Prior to the workshop, Connie found the idea of using public transit a bit scary. Not knowing the bus schedules, how to pay the fare or where to get off the bus can cause anxiety for any new rider, and for seniors, these issues are compounded by fears about personal safety or not knowing how to ask for help. Connie, who is on oxygen 24-hours a day and uses a scooter when she goes out, was concerned about the accessibility of public transit and planning her trips so that she would not run out of oxygen.

Robert Jones, the apartment manager at Chapel Corners, noted how important it is to have programs like travel training that, "encourage seniors to get out in the community and stay active." Robert joked with his residents about how he had recently taken a bus to Hawaii, explaining to the group how much he saved in cab fare when he took a bus and BART train to the airport.

During the workshop, the Chapel Corners residents learned how to read transit maps and schedules, plan a trip, communicate with the transit operator, pay fares, and get senior discount fare rates with a Regional Transit Card (RTC). Workshop participants also learned that buses have special accessibility features for seniors and people with disabilities, including lifts, kneelers and special seating areas.

Workshop participants receive free bus passes and BART tickets to take a field trip on public transit so they can test their newly acquired knowledge and skills. The residents at Chapel Corners took their field trip on AC Transit to the Fremont Senior Center for lunch. The great lamb shank meal they had that day was enough to sell Connie and her friends on future trips to the senior center. In fact, after the workshop, Connie and some of her neighbors took the bus over to the senior center to apply for their RTC cards and have lunch together.

Having ridden the bus a few times now, Connie said, "It's nice to leave the driving to the bus driver and save yourself the stress. The bus drivers are very courteous and take good care of us, making sure that we get on and off the bus safely." Connie's advice to other seniors is "Try transit, you'll like it!"

Workshops are free and open to seniors living in the Tri-Cities. Local groups and organizations may request a workshop for the seniors they serve. For more information about the Tri-City Travel Training Program, please contact Shawn Fong in the City of Fremont Human Services Department at (510) 574-2033.

For more information on how your Measure B tax dollars are being used to support other transportation projects, please visit: www.actia.com

Pathways to Positive Aging is a Robert Wood Johnson grant-funded project of the City of Fremont Human Services Department and the Tri-City Elder Coalition. The goal is to create a community where seniors will understand, choose and access culturally enriched, affordable services and opportunities that enhance their quality of life. For more information on Pathways to Positive Aging, visit www.tceconline.org or contact Asha Chandra at achandra@ci.fremont.ca.us.

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