Better transport services sought for the elderly

CAITLIN WALLACE
Last updated 05:00 19/06/2014
stewart gray
TRANSPORT HITCH: Stewart Gray, 93, can drive now but if he loses his licence he will have to leave Tirau.

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Senior citizens in Tirau have made their plea to establish a district wide transport system.

But if it does not happen soon, 93-year old resident Stewart Gray will have to leave.

"I usually drive myself," he said.

Gray has lived in Tirau his whole life and enjoys driving around the region.

The motorhome owner has also returned from a South Island driving trip to visit family.

However, if the full-licensed driver fails an eye test and loses his licence, he has no way of getting around.

"It would be terrible," he said

Marjorie Roberts, a Putaruru Red Cross health service shuttle driver, said they have had to turn people away because volunteer drivers were unavailable.

Roberts, who wants to reach out to the community, submitted a proposal to council.

Council communications manager Kerry Fabrie said council could not comment on the proposal yet but confirmed there was interest out there for something similar.

"Council has received two applications for the $5 million on this issue and the mayor has since been approached with a third initiative," she said.

Although Gray supports a South Waikato-wide system, he is skeptical of its success.

"It would be handy, but who foots the bill? I don't know," he said.

Gray is fit and healthy enough to drive now, but he knows that luxury won't last forever.

"At my age all you do is to check if you can still see and see if you are still with it," he said.

Putaruru-Tirau Family Doctors practice manager Trish Cole said many factors can prevent the elderly from driving.

"For a lot of people it is their cognitive abilities, their eyesight and medical conditions like blackouts," she said.

Cole said doctors examined seniors and referred them to occupational therapists who made the decision about their licence.

And not everyone can get behind the wheel at 93, which is why she supports the transport initiative.

"As the population is ageing there is going to be a need for it."

Former Tirau resident Bob McClenaghan moved to Putaruru to support his wife in the Rangiura rest home. The 85-year-old said a lot of people in the South Waikato needed transport.

McClenaghan has seen the rest home's shuttle service in action. "It is already benefitting Rangiura," he said.

Tirau Senior Citizens Club president Bill Phillips asked for help from the council to set up a system.

"It's not that I'm asking for money, I'm asking to co-ordinate what's available," he said.

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Despite a response in favour of the idea, he said the project was still in a discussion stage.

caitlin.wallace @fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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