April 12th, 2024

Local seniors struggle with rising costs and public transportation

By Lethbridge Herald on October 5, 2023.

Seniors play a game of bingo at the Nord-Bridge Seniors Centre. Herald file photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – apulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Local seniors organizations are sounding the alarm on the struggles their members are facing due to the rising cost of living, as many are struggling to pay their bills and put food on their table on fixed incomes.  

David Ng, executive director of Nord-Bridge Seniors Centre, says he has heard from members they are struggling to continue living independently due to the increase in utility costs among other things. 

“Seniors, as any regular adults in the community, are struggling with the cost of living, but it definitely compounds a lot more for them because they are on a fixed income, whereas others might have the benefits of having a two-income household,” says Ng. 

He says most seniors are living on a $1,400 a month and many find themselves in utility debt because of it. 

He recently spoke to a member who is struggling to pay her utility bills in the same house she shared with her late husband. 

“She is living in her 900-square-foot home, and she is up to her knees in utility bills because her gas and electricity bills are way too high. She said her usage averages between $30 to $60 but her bills are way higher because delivery charges and distribution charges cost almost double her usage.” 

Ng says the woman is finding it hard to justify living in her own home, but it will be very challenging to find new housing in this market. 

“It will be challenging for her to find something that’s safe, affordable, accessible and barrier free, and her home satisfies that need, but the utility costs alone are making it too hard for her to stay.” 

Even though the cost of living is rising and many seniors are facing challenges with it, many are choosing Lethbridge as their retirement home because of affordability compared to other cities across the province, and the amenities the city has to offer, says Rob Miyashiro, executive director of the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization.” 

“I am hearing from members that people move to Lethbridge because we have lots of amenities that bigger centres have, but in a smaller setting,” Mihashiro says. “We have the symphony, a robust art community, the university and the college, and lots of nature.” 

He says many seniors are moving here following their children to be able to spend time with their grandchildren, as well. 

Miyashiro says one thing he continues to hear from LSCO members, which is something Ng hears from Nord-Bridge members, as well, is the many challenges they face due to transportation. 

“While many of our members still drive, many have to rely on public transportation, and they face multiple challenges when accessing the services,” says Miyashiro. 

He says many face challenges with scheduling appointments, bus stops being far from where they need to go, while others have a hard time understanding the ever-changing routes. 

Ng echoes the concerns and says members have told him about having a hard time with letting go of their independence and how much harder it is when bus schedules complicate their everyday life. 

“They don’t want to lose that independence, being able to get to or grocery store or to an appointment,” says Ng. “And with the buses not being very accessible they face a number of challenges. Some of the bus stops are far away from the front door, they have to walk and schedule that into making their appointments, so yeah, transportation will always be an issue for seniors.”

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