26th March 2013, 12:18pm
Research reveals Lincolnshire's ageing population could be missing out on local transport
Passengers on a bus A new report from the University of Lincoln has highlighted the vital role that community transport schemes play in empowering older people to lead active, fulfilling and independent lives.

But the study, undertaken by Dr Mike Ward, has also revealed that older people in rural areas of Lincolnshire are still heavily dependent on cars because many of them simply don’t know about the other transport options open to them.

The conclusions follow a 12-month survey commissioned by Lincolnshire County Council to identify the transport needs of elderly residents. A series of in-depth interviews with older people (aged 60+) took place in rural communities like Horncastle, Gainsborough and Stamford.

Researchers found that some towns and villages enjoyed very strong links to community transport schemes, whereas others were left in the dark because they simply weren’t aware of the schemes available. As a result, many older residents in rural Lincolnshire are still heavily dependent on private cars. Those who are forced to give up driving can often be left feeling isolated and alone.

Community transport schemes can take many different forms including; voluntary car schemes, group transport, community bus services, wheels to work and door-to-door transport schemes. More than 20 different schemes already operate in Lincolnshire, all of which are supported independent, community led organisations, supported by the county council.

A series of recommendations have been proposed that hope to improve the rural transport in Lincolnshire. They will form the basis of the county council's plans for improving community transport, and will shape the future provision of community transport in Lincolnshire. Over the next few months, marketing and publicity plans will be drawn up to tackle some of the issues highlighted in the report.

Dr Mike Ward, the report’s author, said: “We found that many polder people are reluctant to give up their cars because they do not believe conventional public transport can meet their needs and are unaware of other transport options available to them.
“If we can publicise community transport more, we could significantly reduce the anxiety many older people feel about getting from A to B, particularly when it comes to accessing doctors or hospital appointments. This would enable more of the county’s older residents to lead happy, healthy, independent lives.”

Chris Briggs, Head of Transportation at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “Lincolnshire residents have told us how important it is for them to be able to access services; however, we know many older people still feel very isolated. We supported this work to find out how we can provide our older residents with transport options. We are already using the findings of the report to improve services: filling gaps in the community transport network and promoting the excellent work provided by volunteers around the County who provide in excess of 60,000 journeys for our residents every year.”

The research was carried out as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the University of Lincoln and Lincolnshire County Council. Dr Mike Ward was the Research Associate on the Community Transport Project and was supported by Professor Peter Somerville from the School of Social and Political Sciences and Dr Eleftherios Alamanos from Lincoln Business School.
--Ends--