Older people, mobility and cars

An older man in a blue and white t shirt sits at the wheel of a car and is driving down the road.The policy push to encourage people to walk and use public transport is one way to reduce emissions and improve health. However, whether to choose the car or public transport, or not to go out at all, depends on many factors. So, do people choose the car because they are constrained from using other forms of transport? Or do they use the car because it just suits them better? 

A review of the literature found that people with poor health, older age, low income and lack of access to a car are less likely to get out and about. Difficulties with public transport are linked with walking difficulties. So the design of the public transport system itself is not the total problem. 

Some retirees might engage in several activities in one day making public transport a time consuming business. On the other hand, some retirees may only leave the house for medical appointments and grocery shopping. The paper based on the literature review goes into these issues in depth. 

Some conclusions

Policies aimed at reducing car usage by older people with physical and mental impairments, must be approached with caution. Car mobility represents a crucial means of maintaining independence for older people. 

The advantages of allowing older people to drive, despite minor disabilities, often outweigh the risks they may pose to themselves and others. It is noteworthy that France, togethr with the Netherlands and the UK, are nations with the most lenient procedures and minimal medical examination requirements for driving license renewal. However, these countries also report the lowest fatality rates for car drivers within this age group.

The links between mobility, safety, and older people shows that people aged over 65 are considerably more vulnerable to fatal incidents as pedestrians than as drivers. So there is an intricate balance between considering the mobility needs and safety of the older drivers and pedestrians.

Universal design helps

Researchers found that physical difficulties are contextual, and decrease when universal design measures are taken. Universal design is not a luxury for a few individuals. Physical accessibility helps a lot a people to move around more smoothly and comfortably. 

The title of the article is, Older adults’ immobility: disentangling choice and constraint. It looks at people who are not in the workforce and spend most of their daily lives in their homes.

In a nutshell: the motor car becomes a mobility device as people age and walking becomes more difficult. 

From the abstract

Our research challenges the prevailing notion that immobility only occurs in exceptional circumstances. Our work shows instead a close link with individuals’ activity levels and constraints on their schedules.

Retirees and non-working population groups exhibit higher immobility levels than workers. This is influenced by factors such as poor health, old age, low income, lack of access to a car, or rural residency.

Driving and walking difficulties are significant contributors to immobility, with age being a primary explanatory factor. However, living in dense urban areas tends to reduce immobility levels across household categories. Difficulties with public transport, as such, do not trigger immobility, but they are entangled with walking difficulties.

Implications for public action include targeting age-specific interventions for reducing car dependency, and approaching policies aimed at curbing car use by older people cautiously.

Implementing universal design measures to enhance physical accessibility also helps to make mobility smoother and decrease perceived walking difficulties. Finally, this paper underlines the interconnectedness of mobility, social isolation, and sedentary lifestyles.

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