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Driving Independence For Older People

December 21, 2021

Living in London, we are fortunate to have frequent, fast and reliable public transport. TFL transport meets most Londoners’ daily commuter needs, but it is not the right solution for everyone, such as older people. Promoting independence for older people is important, as social isolation can lead to negative outcomes for people’s health. 

The Challenges For Public Transport and Promoting Independence

For elderly people, despite the regularity of TFL transport, it is a struggle for them to use. We spoke to three Westway CT members, along with one of our volunteers, about their experiences with us. All three users, June, Joyce and Maureen, expressed how hard it is when you are older to use public transport.

June, a WCT member said, “In London we’ve got a terrific bus and underground service, but when you are older, you can’t cope.”

Maureen said, “If it [the bus] comes along full up and you can’t get on, you’ve got to stand and wait again. Another 20 minutes or so, not good once you are elderly.”

To make matters worse, the world is still facing a global pandemic. Before the vaccine, we were all forced into lockdown by the initial waves of Covid-19. The lockdowns had a huge impact on older people who being more vulnerable stayed home to stay safe longer than many others. This saw older people face isolation and subsequent loneliness for longer and to a greater extent.

June talked about how her two children reacted to the lockdown. They told her, “Mum, we don’t want you to go out. We’ll get your shopping.”

This meant that June would write a shopping list for her son. While this saved her money, she stated how she wouldn’t do this again. Lockdown meant she lost the ability to choose what to buy on the day. This caused her to lose an aspect of independence. This loss would frustrate anyone.

How the Shopper Bus Service Promotes Independence

When you are older, and/or are disabled, public transport presents challenges that can make it increasingly inaccessible. Westway CT’s shopper service helps overcome this.

The shopper service has operated for 30 years and helps anyone who cannot access public or private transport. It is a door-to-door minibus service with a passenger assistant.

We asked Maureen, Joyce and June what the shopper service meant to them.

Joyce stated, “When you think about it, it means you’re independent. You can go when you want to.”

Maureen, a user for 15 years, said, “It’s reliable. I don’t think any time, ever actually ring and say sorry we won’t be coming. That’s jolly good in all those years.”

Maureen also praised the door-to-door nature of the service, “They help you take your heavy shopping to the doorstep.”

“My main thing is carrying the shopping.” She joked, “I really believe that he [shopper bus driver] would come in and put my shopping in the cupboards.” June.

All the users agreed that the service helped them to socialise more.

Joyce went to say, “It’s nice because it’s usually when I go on a Monday, it’s usually the same people… but you can discuss Strictly Come Dancing, you know… so it’s good from that point.”

All the users praised the service and said it was wonderful. When asked for additional comments, Joyce expressed the importance of the service to her.

“To be honest, you know if they were to stop the service. We people, in my generation, would be a lot poorer. A lot poorer in both health, mental welfare, you can mark it all down. It makes a whole world of difference, to our generation to have that service available.”

Become A Member Today!

Our services help older people across RBKC and Kensington stay independent.

If you or anyone you know would benefit from using the shopper service please get in touch. 

Joining is easy and costs £12 a year. As a member you’ll also have access to our subsidised volunteer cars service and our day trips out

Complete our joining form and email to us or post it to Westway CT, 240 Acklam Road, London, W105YG.