Targeting Isolation in Manitoba (TIMA) asked Samantha Rodeck, Executive Director, Transportation Options Network for Seniors (TONS), about what TONS does and what information she has to share about transportation options for older adults. Here is what she had to say...
TIMA (Targeting Isolation in Manitoba): Please introduce yourself and tell me about your organization and your role within the organization.
Samantha Rodeck, TONS (Transportation Options Network for Seniors): My name is Samantha Rodeck. I am the Executive Director of Transportation Options Network for Seniors (TONS). As a not-for-profit, we focus on advocating and educating on transportation needs of older adults across the Province of Manitoba. My role is to guide the organization on a daily basis in our projects, in our mission, our goals, and to lead the ship where it needs to go.
TIMA: If someone were to visit and had time to sit down with you and have a coffee, what would you want them to know about TONS?
Samantha Rodeck, TONS: The first thing that I like to remind people is that we do not provide direct transportation in the community, contrary to our name, which means that we do not drive seniors around. As an organization, we focus on awareness-building and advocating on the transportation needs for older adults given the current gaps that exist within the transportation system for older adults in Manitoba. And we relay and direct those issues where they need to go, as needed. We also focus on providing education to older adults and services providers on a wide range of issues and topics related to transportation which we do through our monthly lunch n' learn series.
For older adults, we often guide them to Manitoba 211 to better connect them to transportation options and information. Transportation is relatively sparse across our province, but Manitoba 211 does have most of the information updated about what options are out there.
TIMA: What do you believe are ways we can improve the access of transportation for older adults and what is TONS doing to address that?
Samantha Rodeck, TONS: Over the past couple of years, TONS has been working to advocate on behalf of service providers and older adults directly to Government as they worked to implement their new Seniors Strategy which launched in February 2023. Within the Seniors strategy, TONS highlighted the necessity to have transportation subsidies for lower income older adults to access transportation services, and especially for medical appointments. But we also made sure to advocate for the need to access affordable transportation options as a way to allow aging in place for needs beyond medical, like recreation, employment, socialization etc. In that work, we advocated strongly for a review and modernization of the rural transportation program called Mobility Disadvantaged Transportation Program that provides some funding to rural transportation providers beyond Winnipeg. Services like those accessible programs remain some of the only transportation services that exists for those who may not drive or may not have family to drive them.
One of the biggest challenges that transportation providers face across Manitoba in all sectors of transportation is that funding opportunities are scarce which is what makes the cost for the riders so high. TONS, through our work across the Province, has been supporting groups to look for funding opportunities and we have been aiding in brainstorming innovative ways to solve problems.
TIMA: If you were to only pick one transportation option to use for the rest of your life, what would you pick and why?
Samantha Rodeck, TONS: That is tough because I live outside the city, so obviously driving is a big thing for me. I really do like driving, I like the independence of it but I also really like biking. If I lived in a central city I would probably get an electric bike and bike a lot more.
TIMA: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Samantha Rodeck, TONS: Our work over the last few years has really evolved from being
focused on individual seniors within the community to supporting larger groups and service providers because of the fact that we know the landscape of transportation changed because of COVID and we’re now having to innovate the way we solve transportation issues for the long term. Where it used to be easy to spend time referring older adults to transportation options within their communities, it has become increasingly difficult to do this. This is because there’s been transportation options that just haven’t rebounded but also because we also know that sometimes when someone is experiencing transportation issues, that is often not their only challenge. This is why we’ve continued to partner with Manitoba 211 to ensure that older adults are being referred and assessed through this service.
To learn more about TONS, visit www.tonsmb.org
Other links: Manitoba 211