According to the AARP, more than 20 percent of older adults age 65+ do not drive. Combined with the fact that currently over half of American households do not have adequate access to public transportation, many seniors are left without transportation options.
An AARP report on the benefits of public transportation for seniors examines how a lack of transportation severely limits independence and affects seniors’ ability to age in place. Communities are addressing this problem by looking at improved public transportation services and alternative solutions.
Safety is often an obstacle for seniors using public transit, which expands well beyond buses or trains; access to and from transportation is just as important as the ride itself.
Safe Routes for Seniors studies in both New York City and Goleta, Calif., have examined infrastructure improvements for seniors. Some of the top suggestions include longer cross walk times to aid slower walkers, clearly marked signs and signals at crosswalks for those with vision impairment, and shelters and benches at transit stops with adequate lighting and maps. With safer routes to public transportation, seniors and their caregivers are more apt to use the resources available to them.
Another major obstacle facing seniors is knowledge of what resources are available, according to the Department of Transportation. Local transportation offices have brochures and guides and can help seniors plan out their routes. AARP created an online guide to riding the bus for
seniors. They suggest doing a test run to get a feel for the process, learning routes beforehand, and having exact change ready for the fare. Some transit systems run travel training or mobility management, which work to optimize and expand accessible transit options. Others, such as the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, have training seminars for new riders. Their Mobile Accessible Travel Training (MATT) is an adapted bus which functions both as a working model of the bus system and as a mobile classroom.
Some agencies have programs catered specifically to seniors. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, offer senior specific discounts and shared ride services. Their Senior Grocery Ride shuttles residents of senior housing communities to and from grocery stores once a week for $1.50 round trip.
Private organizations can offer more targeted, specialized services where public transportation is less accessible. TLC Senior Ride, Inc., in Los Angeles not only transports seniors, but also makes deliveries and pick-ups on their behalf. The service can be reserved for appointments, trips to the bank, or store, family or friend visits, and food deliveries.
For more senior-specific transportation options by area, eldercare.gov compiles resources based on area or topic searches. Local aging agencies also collect information on senior mobility services. The National Center on Senior Transportation has compiled a list of best transportation practices for seniors, and many programs have found creative solutions to increase access in rural areas.
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