Transportation Supports Integration into the Community

Social isolation and loneliness lead to poorer population health outcomes  greater mortality, and greater health care spending. This risk of poorer health and increased risk of premature mortality affects all age groups who may also be isolated due to geography, lack of transportation options, or other reasons.

Older adults face unique risks related to social isolation and loneliness, largely because of the many major life transitions that they are likely to experience, including retirement, death of a spouse, death of other social contacts, and changing health and functional abilities. A 2019 poll by the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, which surveyed 509 older adults over age 60 and younger adults with a disability, found that those who, because they never or no longer drive, face barriers getting around experience feelings of physical isolation, frustration, and being trapped.

Engaging in social, wellness, and civic opportunities can be good antidotes to these life changes, and can ensure older adults maintain a sense of connectedness and stem off isolation and loneliness. Yet doing so often requires traveling outside of one’s home, at a time when the aging process itself may lead to a decreased physical and mental capacity to drive oneself safely, resulting in a loss of mobility. Given these many life changes and the diminishing independence that can come with aging, public transportation plays a key role in solutions to address social isolation in older adults.

Public transportation services, particularly in rural areas, may be a literal lifeline for individuals who have no other means of moving about their community. Accessible services allows for individuals to participate in life sustaining and enriching activities. These activities such as employment or volunteering, food access, personal appointments, and social events can create a sense of purpose, boost an individual’s mental outlook and cognitive function, and promote enhanced physical health.

Through programs such as travel training, bus buddies, and other targeted mobility and transportation interventions, mobility professionals have the opportunity to have a profound impact on decreasing the impacts of social isolation and loneliness in populations across the country.

For further investigation . . .

The Role of Transportation in Addressing Social Isolation in Older Adults

NCMM investigated the hypothesis that a lack of transportation can be shown to be associated with incidences of social isolation among older adults; specifically, that a lack of mobility directly affects patterns of social engagement by dictating people’s access to resources, amenities, and socializing opportunities.

Livable and Sustainable Communities

This page highlights how FTA programs fit into the larger DOT Livability Initiative and the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

Additional Resources

Needham Community Council Rides to Health Care

Needham Community Council – Needham, MA
In 2017, the Needham Community Council began supplementing its volunteer driver medical transportation program with trips provided through the ridehailing company, Lyft. Lyft rides were funded through the Needham Community Council operating budget and a donation from Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital – Needham.

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Engaging Older Adults in Mobility Management

Brookline Council on Aging – Brookline, MA
Transportation Resources Information Planning and Partnership for Seniors (TRIPPS) is an initiative of the Brookline Council on Aging. TRIPPS launched in 2015 with initial funding through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation using federal 5310 funding. We provide information, resources, and support to older adults in Brookline who are looking for transportation options. Our focus has been on older adults who are either not driving or are transitioning from driving to other modes. About 70 percent of our older adults who we work with do not own a vehicle.

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Seniors on the GO

Gloucester Health Department – Gloucester, MA
Cape Ann Seniors on the GO launched in October 2019 across the communities of Gloucester, Rockport, Essex and Manchester by-the-Sea to meet an identified need of improving access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity among low income older adults through increased transportation access. This pilot grew out of the work of the Cape Ann Mass in Motion coalition, a part of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Municipal Wellness & Leadership Program. The need for food and physical activity access was identified through root cause analysis and examining high rates of chronic disease among older adults in our Cape Ann communities. Over half of older adults who reside in Gloucester have four or more comorbidities.

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