Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people, told an Oireachtas committee this morning that the lack of an effective rural transport system was isolating older people and preventing them from accessing essential services.
The organisation’s meeting with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional and Rural Affairs in Dublin today was part of a series held by the committee to examine issues affecting rural communities.
Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications, said: “An effective rural public transport system is essential for older people to access work, education, leisure, medical and social services.
“Already, in many parts of Ireland, there are no direct public transport links to hospitals serving rural areas. Older people are increasingly concerned by media reports suggesting real threats to Iarnród Éireann routes and the future of the Bus Éireann Expressway service.
“As more than one older person has said to us, the travel pass isn’t worth very much if there are no buses or trains on which to use it.”
National Positive Ageing Strategy
Mr Moran urged the committee to investigate whether the commitments made in 2013 in the National Positive Ageing Strategy to provide more age-friendly transport have been met.
Mr Moran continued: “The lack of public transport in many rural areas means many older people need to keep driving and they’re suffering from punishing, and ageist, increases in car insurance premiums.
“Research carried out by the CSO and by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice confirms that older people in rural Ireland have lower incomes and higher expenses than those living in our towns and cities.
“A lot of this is driven by the need to keep and maintain a car because the public transport system is simply not reliable.
“The services on which older people in rural communities rely – the post office, the bus, the local GP, the garda station all seem to be under threat.
“The committee’s investigation into how we can best support rural Ireland is a very welcome initiative and we hope the needs of older people will be fully reflected in the final report.”