The United States population is aging: between 2012 and 2050, the number of Americans age 65 and older will almost double. This growing aging adult population impacts communities and planning decisions for transportation and recreation. Many older adults prefer to age in place (remaining in their homes instead of moving to a new location) yet they face physiological changes that can present mobility challenges. Older adults may choose or need to stop driving and instead rely on alternative modes of transportation. Walking and bicycling may introduce new mobility challenges for older adults due to decreased response time, vision issues, reduced muscular range of motion, and risk of falls. Sidewalks, pathways, and crossings that can be easy for a younger person to navigate may prove hazardous for an older person. Traffic signals may not provide sufficient time to cross at an intersection and cracks in sidewalks can introduce tripping hazards. Increased frailty that comes with the aging process makes older adults particularly vulnerable to injury and death if they are involved in a crash.

At the same time, communities can prioritize both the mobility and safety of older adults beyond their driving years. Physical activity, like walking and bicycling, can help prevent feelings of social isolation, build and maintain strength, balance, and physical endurance, and make it possible to access destinations without relying on a motor vehicle. The challenge for communities is to provide transportation networks that accommodate the needs of an aging population.

Resources

Handbook for Designing Roadways for the Aging Population addresses aging road user performance in highway design, operational, and traffic engineering features.

National Aging and Disability Transportation Center promotes transportation options for older adults, people with disabilities, and caregivers.

AARP Age Friendly Communities encourages cities, counties, and states to plan for the environmental, economic, and social factors that impact older adult health and well-being.

North American Conference on Elderly Mobility - Noteworthy Practices Guide provides examples of noteworthy practices from the United States and Canada including safe walking and access to transit.

More Resources >

 

Examples

Neighborhood Slow Zones in New York City describes countermeasures and evaluation used to slow traffic in identified neighborhoods.

Safe Streets for Seniors, New York City highlights the city's pedestrian safety countermeasures in their identified Senior Pedestrian Focus Areas.

Walk San Francisco Engaging Seniors in Vision Zero describes a walk audit and community training process.

More Examples >