A 90-year-old Longview woman is on the edge of her seat, waiting for a new bus for seniors to roll up to her home.
“Longview is perfect for old people, it’s quiet, it’s safe… there’s always something going on, but if you don’t drive you are really stuck,” said Emilie Williston. “There isn’t a grocery store, there isn’t a bank, there isn’t a hair dresser, there’s nothing really apart from the coffee shop. You are really isolated if you don’t drive.”
With half of the village’s population being seniors, Williston said transportation is an issue for many.
“A lot of the old folks that have been here for years are worried that if they don’t pass the driving exam they have to move and, of course, it’s not that easy for them to move somewhere else,” she said. “It’s an upheaval. It’s upsetting. They lose their friends. And where are they going? The bus is very vital.”
Williston is referring to the 20-passenger wheelchair accessible bus the Longview and Area Seniors Association purchased to transport seniors to social activities, shopping and specialist appointments – saving many a $175 taxi bill.
The bus, which the association began fundraising for two years ago, has arrived in the village and requires authority from the Province to operate as the final step before it’s ready to roll.
Once the association gets the green light, the new bus will get Williston out of the house more.
“If the bus is going somewhere I will go with it to have a little outing, to go to places and maybe do a bit of shopping or something,” she said. “That would be nice.”
Association club chairman Ivor McCorquindale said he knows of at least 10 seniors who’ve either lost their driving privileges or don’t drive, who could benefit from the bus.
“It will be used to take them to medical appointments, shopping, local activities, etc.,” he said. “We will be doing the scheduling and hiring of drivers very shortly.”
McCorquindale said he expects the bus to be used at least weekly, particularly in the summer with trips to the Kananaskis and various activities in nearby towns.
“There are two wheelchair-accessible ports so we can pick them up at the door and drop them off at the door,” he said.
The bus, which has extendable and reclining seats, overhead racks and additional lighting, will allow seniors to visit nearby seniors clubs to participate in activities, and will be available for use by other organizations, said McCorquindale.
During the past two years, the association raised $174,000, exceeding the $108,000 cost of the vehicle. The remaining funds will cover such expenses as registration, insurance, drivers and gas.
McCorquindale said 55 organizations and individuals contributed to the purchase of the bus. Their names will appear on a plaque that will go into the Longview Community Hall.
Among the contributions were $47,939 from Alberta’s Community Initiatives Program; $24,000 from the Calgary Foundation; more than $20,000 from various association fundraisers; $10,000 each from Crescent Point Energy, Spray Lakes Sawmills, Foothills Salvage & Recycling Society and Little New York Daze; $8,000 from a village fundraiser; $5,000 each from Sheep River Heath Trust and the Longview Village Market; $4,000 from the Foothills Lions Club; and $2,000 from the Longview Music and Arts Association. The Village of Longview paid the GST costs for the bus.
“We raised a considerable amount of money,” said McCorquindale. “It was well supported all the way around with dinner concerts with musicians who donated their time, to anonymous donations.”
McCorquindale said the excess funds should assist with operating the bus for the first year.
To help cover future costs, including maintenance, upkeep and insurance, the association received approval to run a casino. It will secure any money needed in the interim through fundraisers, said McCorquindale.