ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA – The population of seniors 65 years and older in the U.S. is set to double over the next 25 years. And society – particularly our transportation systems meant to keep people mobile and active – is not prepared for this “silver tsunami.”
Finding the keys to what needs to happen to prepare society better was the focus of a Mobility Lab regional symposium today at George Mason University entitled Transportation Solutions for Aging in Auto-centric America.
“Imagine putting twice the pressure on Social Security and our entitlement programs,” said John Martin, one of several guest speakers and author of the book Boomer Consumer: Ten New Rules for Marketing to America’s Largest, Wealthiest and Most Influential Group.
Stephanie K. Firestone, who moderated the event and is a regular contributor on all things related to “driving retirement” for Mobility Lab added, “We’re not preparing ourselves for our mobility limitations. We all think we’re 20 years younger than we really are.”
Among the suggestions for moving forward, and keeping in mind that only 3 percent of AAA coverage areas have programs that help people transition from driving to alternative modes of transportation – like bus, rail, bike, and walking:
- All the speakers agreed that coordination and duplication of transportation programs for seniors and even people in their 50s and 60s needs to be greatly improved.
- Volunteers are often the key to improving these systems and making them work well. Further, Baby Boomers volunteer more than any other generation.
- Vastly improved marketing and promotion to recruit more potential volunteers and community education and engagement are needed.
- Surveys need to be performed to continue strengthening the research that already tells us how much mobility-management programs improve the quality of life for older people.
- Since not just one form of transportation is a silver bullet for everyone, gaps in service for both individual and local geographies need to be filled.
- “Senior villages” are becoming a popular concept – there is one on Capitol Hill, two forming in Silver Spring and Howard County, and more than 100 worldwide. They are the general equivalent to a neighborhood association and provide services like prescription delivery, doctor homecare, and call-and-ride services to geographic areas.
- Governments and their agencies need to change their mindsets to become more entrepreneurial. For instance, transit agencies could donate or sell some of their underused vehicles at reduced rates to senior mobility organizations.
Other senior-mobility experts presenting included Elaine Binder from Montgomery County, Maryland; Steve Yaffe of Arlington, Virginia; Julie Maggioncalda of Capitol Hill Village in D.C.; and Brad Closs of Neighbor Ride in Howard County.
For more, see our article and compiled tweets here. Also, check out the video of the full event and look in the future for short videos Mobility Lab is producing about aging in place and driving retirement.