A significant challenge lies ahead for transportation services, both public and private. By the year 2050, the population of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to more than double to 83 million people, and communities will need to accommodate their unique needs.
As we highlighted in a previous post, more older adults want to age in place, and would do so if they had the mobility options to let them live independently. A recent study by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute digs into the costs of allowing older adults in small towns and rural areas to age in place and utilize public transportation as opposed to moving into assisted living facilities.
Though transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft have greatly influenced transportation in American cities, there are still plenty of populations that they have left behind, particularly older adults. Now, though, the ride-hailing companies are developing very specific programs for older Americans.
Lyft is working with the University of Southern California Center for Body Computing for a deep dive into behavior patterns of seniors, and therefore how they can tailor their services to this age group. In addition, using grant money to explore the health benefits of providing older adults with free rides.
Paratransit services are utilizing on-demand services to extend their service area and make them cheaper, and Uber and Lyft hope to obtain some of this business. Partnerships with cities, such as in Boston, are popping up where transit authorities subsidize the cost of ride-hailing trips for older adults to give them more mobility options.
More traditional transit systems have also begun focusing more heavily on making mobility more accessible for seniors. Even in typically senior-friendly Florida, communities such as Clay County are still rethinking their designs to accommodate the ability of more seniors to age in place, and community transportation is an important factor in how they plan to move forward.
Other small cities and communities across the country have begun to highlight the value of public transportation services in allowing older adults to remain mobile and independent, such as with Everett, Washington’s Dial-A-Ride transit. As a result, more grants, like an AARP program in Salt Lake City, now focus on training people to use public transit, while agencies make services more welcoming to these populations so they can maintain their independence.
As the so-called “silver tsunami” continues to grow in the coming years, caring for older adults will have to become a major focus for most jurisdictions. But by developing mobility services that make the area easier to navigate without a car, this will provide residents, senior or not, the resources they need to thrive and for communities to thrive.