New Survey Shows Transportation Options Are Needed for Aging Americans; Results To Be Showcased at Next Week’s White House Conference on Aging
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 7, 2005 – More than four in five (82 percent) Americans age 65 or older worry that they will be stranded and unable to get around when they can no longer drive, according to a survey released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
Nearly all of the respondents (98 percent) said that maintaining their independence is “extremely important.”
"These findings are dramatic proof that America’s older citizens believe staying mobile is essential and that ‘mobility security’ just like ‘financial security’ and ‘medical security’ needs to be planned for,” said William W. Millar, president of APTA.
By 2030, more than 70 million people will be 65 years of age or older. “This is a wake-up call for the nation and an issue that must be addressed by the White House Conference on Aging when it convenes next week,” said Millar.
The national survey, conducted by Harris Interactive® on November 28 - 30, 2005, questioned Americans age 65 or older about mobility options and public transportation in their communities.
“Mobility and freedom matter to people of all ages,” said Dee Allsop, president of Solutions Research Groups at Harris Interactive®. “Seniors worry about their ability to get around and recognize the important role and benefits that public transportation plays for them and their communities.”
The survey found that when public transportation is available, many seniors do not regularly use it - primarily because they drive. However, if transit services were more readily available in their neighborhoods, three in five seniors would use them more often. In fact, 83 percent agree that public transportation provides easy access to the things that older adults need in everyday life, such as doctor’s appointments, entertainment, shopping and visits with friends and family.
Additionally, more than 80 percent of those surveyed believe a good public transportation system is safer, easier and more convenient than driving. Of the seniors surveyed, 82 percent consider public transportation to be a better alternative to driving alone, especially at night.
The majority of older adults want more public transportation that specifically addresses their needs. Two-thirds (66 percent) believe that “their community needs to provide more transportation options for older adults, such as easy access buses and senior citizen mini-van services.”
In anticipation of our nation’s changing demographics, nearly 6,000 public and community transportation systems nationwide currently provide various services for older riders, ranging from reduced fares and low-floor vehicles to training sessions for seniors and policies that allow drivers to deviate from fixed bus routes to better accommodate older riders.
However in spite of these efforts, a study last year by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP), AARP and APTA found that the United States is ill prepared to provide adequate transportation choices for a rapidly aging population. More than half of all non-drivers age 65 or older stay home largely because transportation options are limited, particularly in rural and smaller communities. The resulting isolation has serious social and economic consequences for the nation.
"Today’s survey tells us that seniors are afraid of being stranded in their own homes, cut off from family, friends, medical help, community activities and life’s necessities once they can no longer drive,” said Millar. “They have good reason to be afraid, given the current lack of transportation options in many communities and the limited attention this problem has received.”
Those surveyed said they would use public transportation on a regular basis if transit services were convenient and easily accessible (80 percent) and the service took them to many of the destinations they seek (75 percent). They also would use public transportation if its stops were located near businesses that offer senior discounts (68 percent).
“Next week, delegates to the White House Conference on Aging will have the opportunity to make the issue of senior mobility a national priority,” said STPP President Anne Canby. “As our study pointed out, this is no longer simply a family or personal problem, but rather a national challenge that affects all Americans because of its far reaching social and economic implications.”
Last May, in recognition of “Older Americans Month,” APTA released a new campaign called “Easy Rider: Advancing Mobility Needs for Aging Americans.” This industry-wide initiative helps promote activities that many transit systems are using to make public transportation more accessible for seniors. Examples of these senior-friendly activities will be available at the White House Conference on Aging on December 11 - 14, 2005.