Wollongong Free Shuttle Bus and the Quality of Life of the over-55s
This project investigates how the Wollongong Free Shuttle Bus contributes to better quality of life of the over 55s in Wollongong. Active transport is an ideal opportunity to increase both the physical and social wellbeing of people in older populations and enables older people to maintain social networks and thus positively impacts their mental and physical health while reducing social isolation. Aged and Communities Services Australia (ACSA) in Social Isolation and Loneliness among Older Australians emphasises the importance of accessible local transport in preventing social isolation and its accompanying problems. This project addresses several major themes within the ‘Living Well, Longer’ Global Challenge including ageing, mental health and general well-being.
Our ethnographic research will provide the opportunity for older people to share their lived experience of the ‘Gong Shuttle Bus’. It will involve participant observation around and within the bus service and qualitative interviews with bus drivers and over 55 passengers. It will provide insights into the extent to which using this free transport contributes to the physical, mental and social wellbeing of those over 55. We are investigating the effect of both the bus service in general, and the fact that it is free in particular. Our team brings together experts from a range of fields, including health, engineering, social science, behavioural economics, and business, who will address the key questions of ‘Living Well, Longer’ by showing if and how the service provided by the Free Wollongong Shuttle Bus contributes to both the mental and physical well-being of participants 55 and over.
The Wollongong Shuttle bus is especially of interest today due to the recent controversy over whether it will be kept free, both in the short term and in the long term. In the short term, the issue has been resolved. For the long term, the outcome is still up in the air. We hope to shed light on both the value of the bus to those 55 and over, and on the value of keeping it free for that same segment.
About the Researchers
Luke Molloy is a senior lecturer in the School of Nursing, Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health. He is a registered psychiatric nurse with clinical experience in Australia and Ireland. His research interests include trauma-informed care, professional practice in mental health services and mental health promotion. He is the lead investigator for this Global Challenge.
Dr Anne-Maree Parrish is currently a member of the School of Health and Society, Faculty of Social Science and a member of the Early Start Research Institute at the University of Wollongong. Anne-Maree’s research is concerned with understanding and developing physical, social and policy environments to support healthy lifestyles. Her particular research focus investigates environmental factors that influence physical activity and sedentary behaviour as a means of improving health and wellbeing.
A/Prof Rodney Clarke is a multidisciplinary researcher from the Operations Discipline, Faculty of Business who also runs the Collaboration Laboratory (Co-Lab) in the SMART Infrastructure Facility. His research interests relevant to this project include go-along interview techniques designed for participative transport research as well as spatial semantics of transport systems.
Prof. Pascal Perez is the Director of the SMART Infrastructure Facility, Faculty of Engineering and Information Science at the University of Wollongong. He has 30-years of research experience in advanced data analytics and simulation to explore complex interactions within social and technological systems.
Dr. Michal Strahilevitz is a faculty member in the Marketing Discipline in the Faculty of Business and is also affiliated with the SMART Infrastructure Facility and a blogger for Psychology Today. Her training is mainly in consumer psychology and behavioural economics. Most of her published research focuses on how emotions effect behaviours in a variety of contexts including purchases, donations to charity, investments, and choices that affect one's health (particularly around diet and exercise).
Dr Delia Rambaldini–Gooding is an Early Career Researcher in the Faculty of Social Science at the University of Wollongong. Her main research interests include the role of the third sector in the formulation and implementation of social policies related to regular and irregular migration, the provision of services to vulnerable populations by the third sector, and the impact of these services on the health and well-being of vulnerable populations.
Dr Josh Mei-Ling Dubrau is a writer, researcher, and editor, currently working in Online Learning support and development at the University of Wollongong. Her current research and creative work focuses particularly on the position of the author as both observer and observed in the creation of texts drawn from true-life incidents.
In The Media
Why losing the free Gong Shuttle hurts, Illawarra Mercury, 17 November 2017