The main objective of the “Seniors train Seniors” initiative is to enable elderly people to remain mobile through public transport use, thereby retaining as much independence as possible. The local public transport authority of Offenbach, NiO, seeks to improve the quality of life of its customers.
Background & Objectives
It is one of NiO´s major concerns to keep all its customers mobile to an optimum level. With all its projects and initiatives, NiO tries to deepen its engagement with its customers while also trying to attain the environmental protection goals of the city of Offenbach. It is common knowledge, but also proven by several NiO surveys held in Offenbach, that the average age of people nowadays is continually rising. Therefore it is to be presumed that elderly people will become a public transport customer-group, particularly as many of them are not able or willing to maintain their own cars but do want to remain mobile. At the same time, elderly people tend to be very cautious when it comes to using public transport. They feel insecure in handling the whole system, from the very decision which bus to take to buying the correct ticket. Therefore NiO decided to initiate a programme, with the support of the Interreg IVb NWE mobility project ICMA amobilife, in order to teach seniors how to make best use of buses and trains.
The new initiative is about keeping elderly people mobile through public transport use. The project is called “Seniors train Seniors” and refers to the Train-the-Trainer initiative of the Swiss mobility agency Rundum Mobil GmbH in Thun. In order to give the initiative the best possible start and a good chance to keep running, NiO decided to go for the Train-the-Trainer method, this way of spreading information appears for different reasons to be the best approach. First of all, for seniors being taught by peers, it is easier to pose questions as their teachers are of similar age and might have had similar problems approaching the system of public transport.>Secondly, education sessions may be held in seniors' homes or residences and therefore in a familiar surrounding. That already diminishes the first mental “entry barrier” i.e. it makes it easier to participate in the training. Thirdly, seniors as teachers are the best possible promoters after peers. They prove that being mobile via public means of transport is both possible and manageable even for elderly people. The training courses provide basic skills for using public transport. This includes, for example, purchasing a ticket from a ticket machine with a touchscreen, hopping on or off a bus safely when physically impaired or informing yourself about the right train or bus connections.
Since the start of the initiative in May 2010, 25 senior mobility trainers have been trained and almost 200 seniors have participated in the training courses. In order to ensure the support of the senior trainers and to make sure that the initiative will be maintained, NiO provides the trainers with the most up to date training material, organises regular feedback meetings with all trainers and even provides personnel in the training courses. NiO is confident that their chosen methods will prove to be of good use and will help to enable many elderly people to stay mobile and retain maximum levels of autonomy.
Manuals for designing your own travel training are now available for free under www.icma-mobilife.eu within the amobilife training lab section.
Although the initial "Seniors-Train-Seniors" programme was temporarily limited to the duration of the ICMA amobilife project, the positive and unexpected feedback led the NiO to conclude that this initiative will be kept alive even after the end of the project.