A party bus for seniors

One-year grant supports Maple Ridge program to help seniors to get out and active.

Participants during a trip to Maple Ridge Park for an afternoon picnic.

Participants during a trip to Maple Ridge Park for an afternoon picnic.

Seniors now have a party bus of their own.

The windows are not blacked out, and there are no fluorescent lights, no loud music and definitely no pole.

And this bus ventures out during the day instead of night.

But, twice a month, a bus will pick up interested seniors at their own doorstep and take them on an outing.

Past tips have included a picnic in a park, a history lesson at the fort in Fort Langley, lunch at Osprey Village in Pitt Meadows and a tour of the Maple Ridge library.

This is all thanks to a one-year $25,000 Active Aging grant through the United Way of the Lower Mainland.

Seniors party bus co-ordinator Joanne Leginus, with Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Community Services, said the actual program is called the Seniors Activity Program.

The primary goal of the program is to reach out to vulnerable, isolated seniors to get them out of their houses for some physical exercise and give them the opportunity to socialize with other people.

Each outing has a staff person or a “go-along,” plus a couple of volunteers who support the seniors.

Lunch is provided. There are no costs for participants.

The bus itself is a former Handy Dart that can fit up to 14 people, including two wheelchairs.

“It’s just a great way to bring people together – seniors, regardless of different cultures, different genders, just getting people together and having some fun,” said Leginus.

Seniors must have a certain level of independence as caregivers are not able to accompany patients on the bus and volunteers are unable to give one-on-one support.

However, people with mobility issues are welcome as walkers and wheelchairs are accommodated.

“We go to each and every individual seniors house or apartment, whereever they live, pick them up, take them on the outing,” said Leginus.

“Then at the end, we drop them off individually at their own homes. There are no barriers,” she continued.

During each outing, a brief survey is conducted to see what people want from the service and where they would like to go.

“We go by what they want,” said Leginus.

“Who knows how long it’s been since they have been out,” she added.

Anyone interested in taking part in an outing is asked to register ahead of time.

The next two outings are already full.

However, new registrants are given higher priority for limited spaces because the program is aimed at serving as many different seniors as possible.

“It’s a program that removes all barriers – transportation, mobility, dollars … ” said Leginus.

“It reduces social isolation, it improves physical well-being just by the very fact of coming out and walking,” adding that simply by meeting other people, too, independence is increased.

Upcoming trips will include a trip to the pumpkin patch, a possible Christmas light tour and Christmas shopping.

The program runs until March 2017.

• To register, call 604-467-6911 extension 1405 to leave a name and phone number.