Mobility issues can undermine older adults’ quality of life1, 2. At age 70, driver’s license renewal policies in California change3 and driving fatalities and insurance rates tend to rise⁴. By age 85, many people discontinue driving⁵. A 2001 study of community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries (aged 65 or older) found that 47% reported at least some difficulty walking⁶. Older adults with difficulties walking and those who do not drive are less likely to receive regular health checks-ups, are less civically engaged, and are more socially isolated compared to those without these mobility limitations⁷. Seniors miss being active members of the community, but the community also loses from the lack of involvement of its seniors. Ensuring that older adults have access to safe, reliable, affordable means of transportation will be central to Angelenos experiencing purposeful aging.
Consistent with past studies in the United States, surveyed Angelenos predominantly seem to rely on personal vehicles to get from place to place⁸. However, sizeable portions of the older age groups rely on others to drive them, walk, or use public transportation, and transportation patterns appear to differ across racial/ethnic groups especially among older community members. As previous researchers have suggested, specialized transportation services for older adults and people with disabilities, do not seem to be the most common or viable driving replacement for older adults. Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are an additional alternative to traditional taxis even among the oldest respondents. Some people even reported (when selecting “other”), that they used delivery services like Amazon to get what they needed without needing to leave their home. These new services may help meet older adults’ material needs, but additional investigation of transportation in Los Angeles would benefit from evaluating frequency of leaving one’s home (e.g., monitoring residents’ ability to meet social needs). Overall, a majority of community members tended to have positive views of their city/town’s transportation infrastructure, but there was room for improvement, especially in views of personal commuting infrastructure. Additionally, many older community members are still not aware of local programs such as paratransit and driver education courses designed to help meet older adults’ transportation needs. Age and racial/ethnic variations in responses about transportation infrastructure suggests diversity in transportation needs across subsets of the Los Angeles community and highlights the importance of attention to local community context when prioritizing new transportation investments.
Ensure that regional transportation systems reflect the needs of older adults.
Public transportation is a critical component of healthy, purposeful aging. Research indicates (Transit Center, 2017) that public transportation can reduce social isolation, enable older adults to more easily access health care, and is safer than alternative modes of transport. However, many older adults are not familiar with the available transportation options, and may need assistance in learning how to use public transportation. And while there are a variety of transportation options for older adults in Los Angeles County (i.e., Access Services, Dial-A-Ride, City Ride, City Door-to-Door Transportation Program, County New Freedom Program etc.), there are gaps in coverage based on geographic location and level of services. At the same time, there are emerging ride-sharing options tailored for older adults, such as GoGoGrandparent.
Ensure that older adults can walk safely in their communities.
Along with public transportation, walkable communities are a critical component of healthy, purposeful aging. Older adults wish to “age in place”, however the aging process often diminishes the ability to drive, making it more difficult for older adults to remain in their homes. A walkable community improves access to transit and vital services. However, fifty-six percent of all older adults 65 and older injured or killed while walking in California, were crossing the street in a crosswalk at the time of the collisions, according to 2015 data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. Furthermore, while many areas may have sidewalks, the condition of sidewalks or lack of agefriendly design features (i.e., curb ramps, raised cross walks etc.) often present obstacles to older adults and people with disabilities.