Stranding our seniors

I, along with writer Peter Lehner in his blog post, have seniors in my family that are hampered by a lack of public transportation. What is even more difficult to deal with is the unwillingness of many to ride public transit even when it is available. And that is due to our car dependent society. This is going to have an enormous impact on all of us as we age. By 2030 the over 65 age group is expected to double.

As Lehner writes, “nearly 80 percent of our seniors live in car-dependent suburban and rural communities, according to a 2003 Brookings Institution study. Half our non-driving seniors stay home on any given day because they have no public transit options. Non-driving seniors make fewer trips to the doctor, fewer visits to friends and family, and fewer trips to stores and restaurants, according to a 2004 study. Seniors who stop driving show more symptoms of depression and are less active outside the home.”

Interestingly, they did a study that shows where seniors will be living in 2030. Florida tops the list which is not a surprise. But what is a surprise are states like Montana, West Virginia and Maine where seniors will account for nearly a quarter of the population. These states are predominantly rural and we know what that means when it comes to public transportation.

We are looking at volunteer driving programs, vanpooling and ridesharing to help provide more options but more needs to be done and there needs to be support from the federal, state and local levels. As Lehner states, even putting in better sidewalks and adding benches can make a significant difference in senior mobility – and I would like to add, not only for senior citizens but for everyone.

What benefits one group will benefit us all.

Jan

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