Local bus cuts an obstacle to the old
A report published by Age UK to coincide with the start of National Countryside Week, puts cuts to local bus services at the top of a list of aspects of living in the countryside that present serious obstacles for many older people. It also mentions a lack of nearby shops and services, the high cost of heating and living, the lack of access to health and social care, and difficulties getting broadband.
It points out that approximately half of the rural population are aged over 45, compared with 36% in major urban areas and that, across rural England, the number of people aged over 65 with social care needs is projected to increase by 70% over the next 16 years. It says the number of cases of depression, stroke, falls and dementia is also projected to grow compared with urban areas. Other findings were that prices in rural areas are typically 10-20 per cent higher than in urban areas and that loneliness ‘as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. As well as action on these points, the charity is calling for rural communities to be actively involved in planning services and shaping local decisions.
Commenting on the report, Bus Users UK said, ‘Despite having free bus travel, the report points to growing isolation among older people as services are reduced and in some cases cut completely. Many older people in rural areas rely entirely on bus services to access healthcare, social activities, community events and shops, as well as visiting friends and family. Reduced services mean that many people now face a fairly long walk to their nearest bus stop. Delays, cancellations, long waiting times and cold bus shelters add to the problem and make bus travel for older people even more challenging.
Gillian Merron, Chair of Bus Users UK said: ‘Older people in rural areas face the double challenge of having many services and amenities centralised in towns and cities that they now can’t access because they simply can’t get to them. It undermines the whole idea of providing free bus travel when there’s no bus to travel on.’
She added, ‘What this report proves is that when bus services are cut it isn’t just older people who suffer – we all suffer.’