Mobility Decline Leads to Isolation

As people get older, their ability to move and walk declines. It gets more difficult to get up, walk for a longer period of time and climb stairs. These issues are often intensified by environmental barriers outside their homes, leading to more isolation and a lack of possibilities to interact with the outside world. Many older adults are afraid that these barriers might cause accident and stress. As Taina Rantanen describes in her article “Promoting Mobility in Older People”, “we observed that environmental barriers correlate with fear of moving outdoors, which typically manifests in avoidance of outdoor activities that are within a person’s health capacities.” This statement shows that many older adults are afraid of leaving their homes because they fear that environmental barriers will limit their mobility even more. Consequently, they withdraw from social life and spend most of their time at home and eventually lose their independence.

In the article “Maintaining Mobility in Older Age” provided by Economic & Social Research Council, Lynn McInnes explains the necessity of enabling older adults to stay mobile by offering appropriate public transport possibilities. McInnes underlines that “findings [of a study carried out by the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme] highlight the importance of providing effective transport networks and a good range of local services to meet older people’s needs. Being able to stay mobile is crucial to older people’s wellbeing, as loss of mobility means the loss of so many other things from their lives such as the ability to go shopping, meet friends and pursue hobbies and interests.”

Salzburg offers Age-Friendly Public Transport

In Salzburg, the project AENEAS aims at reducing these issues of environmental barriers for older adults by providing improved public transportation possibilities. As described in one of their presentations, the project wants to tackle challenges many older people are confronted with. They aim at promoting usage of public transport, solving problems concerning safety, accidents and fears, and encouraging older adults to use the bus. To reach this goal, AENEAS offers trainings for older adults. These trainings include practice on busses, and tips and tricks for safe behaviour when riding on a bus. Participants learn how to request a seat, how to get on and off the bus safely and how to avoid dangers of falling. The project also offers a safety brochure with many additional pieces of advice.

Moreover, senior-friendly modifications of busses have been proposed by AENEAS. These suggested modifications include low floor busses with ramps, acoustic and optical information, marked and reserved seats for older adults, and markings on steps and handles. Additionally, bus drivers should be trained how to deal with senior passengers. They are supposed to develop a sense of consideration and understanding, meet older adults’ special needs and, if possible, stop the bus as close to the pavement as possible. All these measurements will allow senior citizens to actively participate in society and stay independent.

Science Daily: Maintaining mobility in older age
Harvard Health Blog