written by Nicoletta Moss
My entire adult life I have depended on my private car. It is my freedom to go anywhere: shop, see friends, go to work – or whatever else I felt like. And now – where I have finally all the time in the world as a pensioneer to do whatever I like – I should give up this freedom? Most certainly not!
Statistics show that per mile driven. older drivers are over-represented in fatal accidents. Due to their physical frailty, they are more likely to be injured in an accident and more likely to die of that injury.1 Often, family members of an elderly person, such as one’s children, are faced with the responsibility of trying to get them to give up driving. This can be challenging because few senior citizens are voluntarily willing to give up their own car keys. 2
After the loss of their license, an elderly person may be forced to make major lifestyle changes. Suddenly they depend on other people to get them from A to B – public transport is also an option – but what if – if there is no option? Many have to move for that reason to homes for the elderly.
Dr. Helen Fitt and Dr. Angela Curl state in the Whanganui Chronicle that ceasing or reducing driving in older age can be problematic; it can lead to social isolation and threaten wellbeing, especially for those living in lower-density suburban environments that rely heavily on transport by private car.
Many cities cater very well with public transport, Mobility as-a-Service is on demand available, there are often good walkways to walk or bike lines which could be shared with mobility scooters. Cities are working on accessibility with detailed maps and making information accessible to those with vision or cognitive decline.
But how about those who live in suburban or rural areas? Those places where maybe once a day a bus might show up – often with the bus stop miles away from the dwelling. This is where the challenge starts. One major hope will be Autonomous Vehicles which will be available on demand and muchmore cost-effective than current taxi services. But for this to become reality we have to wait at least another decade.
What communities in the meantime need to establish is a public transport system which works more like ride hailing: not along fixed routes and timetables, but on-demand and flexible – but still shared to keep it affordable. These could be booked either per mobile app and for those who don’t want or can’t deal with a mobile phone – through a call. Such systems are already available in many communities. A well-tested technology is the one from ViaVan which provides ride-pooling services, which are fully automated including an effective route planning, making the service more economically viable.
The economics of such a project are of course very essential. But I suppose once the affected person has done his or her math – this shared transport might be much cheaper than their own private car – and not to speak of the fees living in an elderly home.To develop a Senior-Friendly
Transportation have a look at the Five A’s of the Beverly Foundation:
Availability: Meaning door-to-door service, as it might be quite impossible for the elderly to even get to the bus stop.
Acceptability: Seniors who are used to the standard of their private car are looking for similar comfort and convenience of the offered service.
Accessibility: The service must offer assistance and support prior to, during, and following their travel, coined as “door-to-door, door-through-door, and at-the-destination assistance.”
Adaptability: Multi-modal might be rather difficult. The service also needs to be able to accommodate the use of walkers and service animals, also.
Affordability: Senior-friendly transportation systems have the job to educate the elderly about alternative options to their private car and help them to understand that the cost for the new type of transport is not an additional expense, but a substitute for the cost of a personal automobile.
Let’s hand back over the freedom to our senior citizens – and work on inclusive transport solutions – especially in rural and suburban areas.
1 Langford J, Methorst R, Hakamies-Blomqvist L. Older drivers do not have a high crash risk — a replication of low mileage bias. Accid. Anal. Prev. 2006; 738: 574-8
2 “Aging Drivers – Getting Parents to Give Up Their Keys”. axcessnews.com. January 7, 2011
3 “Should we be scared of senior drivers? – NewsTimes”. newstimes.com. Retrieved 12 January 2017