Transportation barriers prevent many people from accessing essential goods, services and supports in their community. This is especially true for individuals with low-income, living in rural and remote areas, and lacking access to a vehicle. Populations that experience greater transportation challenges include youth, seniors, persons with disabilities and newcomers to Canada. In an effort to address this issue, the Ontario government has announced a grant-based Community Transportation Pilot Grant Program. The government states its aim is to improve transportation services for those who need it, providing funds for partnerships between municipalities and community organizations, Older adults are a growing demographic that could greatly benefit from enhanced transportation options. Over the next 20 years, the number of older adults aged 65 and over will more than double, from 1.9 million today to 4.2 million in 2036. Older adults face many challenges, including the loss of loved ones, social isolation, poverty, chronic illnesses and mental health issues.
Social support has been shown to improve their mental health. Research suggests that enabling older adults to access community centers, recreation areas and places of worship as well as visit friends and family members gives them a greater sense of independence and helps them to stay at home longer.
CMHA Ontario is also focused on improving older adults’ mental health. Since regular physical activity outdoors has been shown to improve well-being, CMHA Ontario has partnered with Hike Ontario and Conservation Ontario to launch the program, Mood Walks. Mood Walks provides training and support to community mental health organizations across the province to create educational walking programs for older adults who experience mental health issues.
Mood Walks is linked to Conservation Ontario’s Healthy Hikes Challenge. Each year, Healthy Hikes takes place during the summer and fall and encourages Ontarians to spend time hiking in the 270 conservation areas available in the province.