Blog Post

Obstacles Faced by Older Travellers

Long lineups, poor signage, and garbled announcements over a loudspeaker can be a nuisance for any traveller. But for older adults, they can present significant roadblocks in their journey, whether taking a cross-country trip by train, or a bus ride to an appointment. Demand for an inclusive transportation system that meets the unique and varied needs of this growing demographic is only going to increase.

Our 2017 report, Older Canadians on the Move, addresses key obstacles faced by today’s older travellers and explores innovative and technological solutions for adapting Canada’s transportation system to meet future needs, as well as practices beyond technology.

The Panel adopted the use of personas to illustrate the obstacles faced by older travellers using the Canadian transportation system. Four personas were developed: Charlotte and François (Quebec, 84/86 years old), Yumi (British Columbia, 73 years old), Patrick (Alberta, 65 years old), and Marie (Nova Scotia, 89 years old). Each persona exemplifies common obstacles or concerns among older adults, such as mobility, income, or lack of familiarity with newer technology.

Read our report to discover all the personas.

Follow Yumi’s journey:

Yumi (73 years old) is a divorced Japanese-Canadian who immigrated to British Columbia in 1972 with her former husband. After Yumi’s divorce, money grew tight; because she was a homemaker while raising her daughter, Misato, the only work she could find after the divorce was a minimum-wage cashier job. Yumi now lives alone in a small apartment in Burnaby.

Misato lives in Seattle with her husband and son. Now that their son is older, Misato and her family have many weekend commitments and rarely get a chance to visit Yumi. Yumi misses them and, having two weeks’ worth of unused vacation, she considers travelling down to Seattle by train for the first time. Yumi has a number of concerns about the trip:

  • How will she manage planning the trip and travelling alone? She has never been to the train station and would have to travel by bus to get there.
  • Can she afford the train ticket? Will she be able to bring food on the train to avoid having to buy an expensive meal?
  • How will she contact Misato when she arrives? Will the prepaid cell phone Misato gave her work outside Canada?

With her travel dates set, Yumi is determined to learn how to travel to Seattle independently. She phones a customer service line for bus directions to the Vancouver train station and discovers a bus can drop her directly in front of the station, where she hopes to inquire about the train journey. The next day, Yumi alights the bus at the train station and feels slightly overwhelmed at how big it seems.A young woman wearing a green vest approaches and asks if Yumi needs help. Learning it is Yumi’s first time taking the train, the volunteer walks her to the ticketing area. The ticketing agent answers all of Yumi’s questions, including what foods are prohibited at the border, and searches for the lowest fare on Yumi’s preferred dates. Yumi is pleased that the round trip ticket turns out to be less expensive than she feared because of a seniors’ discount and her ability to travel outside peak times. Yumi purchases a ticket for two weeks’ time, requesting a window seat near the baggage storage area. The agent informs Yumi that her train ticket entitles her to free bus fare to and from the train station on the days of her journey. The agent links Misato’s cell phone number to Yumi’s train ticket, which will send Misato text message alerts about Yumi’s train status and arrival time. Yumi is relieved she won’t have to rely on her cell phone in the United States. The agent hands Yumi her tickets, along with several inserts that outline baggage guidelines and a border-crossing quick guide. The agent points out Yumi’s train number on her ticket and the large electronic board where she will check her platform number. As she walks to the bus stop, Yumi notices the large signs indicating each platform number and leaves the station feeling confident about the trip. On her departure date, Yumi rides the bus to the train station. Entering the station, she heads straight toward the electronic board to check her platform number. She sees that her train is departing from Platform 3 and follows the signs to the platform area. On Platform 3, she sees the sign on the train indicating “Seattle” and gets her ticket out to board the train. A staff member scans Yumi’s ticket and helps her locate her seat. Yumi is pleased the train has level boarding, so she does not need help getting her suitcase on board and to the storage area. Yumi enjoys the train trip; she eats her packed lunch while admiring the passing scenery and, thanks to good preparation, the border check goes smoothly. When the train arrives in Seattle, Yumi collects her suitcase, leaves the train, and follows the other passengers to the station exit, where she sees a sign for the pick-up area. As she approaches, she is thrilled to spot Misato getting out of her car to come greet her.