Ten Things: Mobility in Later Life

For me, much of this year has been spent understanding the impact of mobility on the lives of older people. My team and I wrote a report on our ethnography with five rural transport projects in Ireland – contact me for a copy. We also sponsored some students from the RCA to think through the issue which led to this publication.

It is hard to summarise or emphasise enough, the value, of transportation services for people with no simple recourse to public transport or their own vehicle – it has the ability to transform their quality of life and forces a re-evaluation of what ageing-in-place could or should mean. The following ten things are based on a quite specific study on community transportation projects for rural Ireland that tend to be used, but are not specifically designed for, older people. Perhaps these are too obvious? Perhaps, but then it is often worth stating the obvious, especially to those who live highly mobile, connected and urban lives and need confronting with the different reality of increasing numbers of the world’s older population, especially those who live rural lives.

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1. Older people express a strong desire to experience the world beyond the home

2. Increased mobility and the shift to cities by younger people, leaves older people feeling less mobile – mobility is a relative phenomenon, especially in a county like Ireland with the fastest growing car ownership rates in Europe (after Greece).

3. Lack of access to transport services reduces opportunities for independence and autonomy and creates a sense of obligation and dependency – dependency is something older people are hugely keen to avoid.

4. Access to basic healthcare resources – doctors, chemist, dentist and hospital – requires mobility

5. Transportation initiatives emerge from, and weave together, a huge variety of community services and resources – community transport does exactly what it says on the tin.

6. Mobile lives are sociable lives – mobility is valued for all it enables, not just the journey. Transport is more than the simple displacement of people to places.

7. The community transport buses support independence because they addresses necessities while making them appear as choices.

8. Transportation is a platform that links people to places, peoples and resources. It is both social engine and glue

9. Community transport projects provide an essential service to a population who have few opportunities for social interaction or for access to healthcare and services

10. Transportation is inexplicably missing in many accounts of ageing – yet it frequently appears near the top of the issues that older people regard as important.