When next you hear the sounds of old crooner tunes echoing through the streets of Woodstock, it’s not the ice-cream truck, but rather pensioners being carted around in a new tuk-tuk service.
On Wednesday August 16, Neighbourhood Old Age Homes (NOAH) launched their new free transport service, exclusively for state pensioners and members of Noah looking to move around the area freely, as the service collects them at their front door, takes them on their rounds and returns them home again.
The new feature in Woodstock is the brainchild of Noah’s director, Anne Dobson, who became inspired by the use of a tuk-tuk while abroad.
“After a trip to the East, seeing how many people are transported on tuk-tuks, cheaply and efficiently, we realised that this could be applied to the South African context.
“Transport is the single biggest barrier for social pensioners to access clinics, shops, places of worship and other services,” she said.
Ms Dobson added that while major transport routes existed in the area, there were often physical impediments to pensioners using these routes. “Moreover, many older persons do not actually need to get on a bus or a taxi – they simply need to pop into the shop, go to the library or visit a friend.
“Our service fills this gap. Without it, these residents remain isolated, neglected, anxious, lonely and sometimes even hungry,” Ms Dobson said.
The service will announce itself through a loud hailer, playing golden oldies, covering a 1km radius from the Noah Centre in Regent Street, travelling between Aberdeen Street and Salt River Road and Lower Main to Salisbury roads, from Monday to Friday, between 9am and 1pm. The tuk-tuk is also fitted with a wheelchair carrier, making it accessible to all.
Behind the wheel of the tuk-tuk is Noah resident Billy Schloss who will ably be assisted by guard, Boyce Msutu, another Noah resident who jumped at the opportunity to conduct this much needed service within the community.
“This means that social pensioners are able to remain independent in their communities for as long as possible. It will increase their independence, dignity, self esteem and quality of life by allowing them more opportunities to interact with their families, friends and the wider community,” Ms Dobson said.
“It will bring their business to the door of the shopkeepers and other services. It will reduce the burden of care on the families and community members who would otherwise be required to step in.”
Asked if Noah planned to expand the service, Ms Dobson quickly replied: “Absolutely yes. The success of the tuk-tuk is based on covering a small area regularly. Once we have proven the need in other areas, we will not extend the reach of this tuk-tuk but will introduce more to Woodstock, and to Khayelitsha in 2018,” she added.
Those wanting to make use of the tuk tuk service will be required to register at the Noah Centre in Woodstock, using their Sassa card and ID book, and they will need to sign an indemnity form.
They will then be issued with a laminated identity card to show to the guard.
“Our residents are extremely excited to participate in this life changing service. It will expand their lives and offer them freedom and independence. They feel that it will improve access, safety and be lots of fun,” Ms Dobson said.