A new system for accessing public transport called Bee Card is being trialled in Horowhenua and could have a massive affect on the ability of elderly to stay socially active.
That's the view of Horowhenua Grey Power's Passenger Transport chairman Lew Rohloff, who said it was important the high percentage of elderly in Horowhenua had access to subsidised public transport.
"Isolation is a precursor to one's demise," he said.
Rohloff said the freedom to drive and visit friends and family at will was a luxury not afforded everyone in the community, and often the cost associated with travel was prohibitive.
Owning and running a car wasn't cheap. Rohloff said he was fortunate he could still drive, but he understood that it might not always be the case.
"Tomorrow I could lose my driver's licence," he said.
Rohloff had teamed up with fellow GreyPower member Margaret Williams to work with local authorities on transport issues.
Williams, who had never had a drivers licence, had worked hard with Rohloff to ensure their concerns were heard.
"The long-term 'connectedness' for older people and their relationships with friends and family from other metropolitan areas is very important for their wellbeing, and for the economy of Horowhenua," he said.
Rohloff said the new Bee Card could have economic benefits for the Horowhenua region, with more city people visiting via public transport.
"You only have to look at the hordes of Wellington people who venture into the Wairarapa region."
Rohloff said Horowhenua was an ideal region to pilot the card system but he suggested the true value would be in the card data showing passenger use, hot spots and fare collection.
"Public transport is well established in metropolitan areas but in provincial centres there hasn't been any," he said.
He said it was heartening to see local authorities Horizons Regional Council and Horowhenua District Council working hard towards representing the needs of the community.
"It has been a positive experience and we have found everyone so obliging," he said.
The regional integrated ticketing system used an electronic card to tag on and off public bus services and has replaced Horizons Regional council's GoCard in Palmerston North, Feilding, Marton, Ashurst and Levin, as of July 20.
Many regions in New Zealand were facing out of date and increasingly obsolete technology with bus ticketing systems. The Horizons region is the second in New Zealand to use the German-made system.
The system had been used in Whanganui since December last year.
Customers who normally pay beneficiary, senior, child or tertiary fares have until September 28 to get the concession loaded onto their new Bee Card.
The card would give elderly free off-peak transport between 9am and 3pm. Cards are available on the bus, at beecard.co.nz, or by calling the free phone number 0508 800800. Applications for Bee Cards were also available at Te Takere tanga o Kura-hau-pō.