Transportation is essential for older adults not only to provide a social link between home and community but also to enable access to living essentials, such as groceries and medicine. This study seeks to understand transportation access, opportunities, and barriers faced by older adults, and investigate how transportation strategies and planning policy can better shape their mobility options. While significant recent research has focused on developing various mobility alternatives for all people, the policy recommendations to support such services to older populations remain unclear.
This study proposes a research collaboration between a transportation engineer, an industrial engineer, and a social worker, with an aim to enhance the impacts of transportation policy and planning on the mobility of older adults. We seek to determine the degree to which educational tools or information reduces any technology barriers to access new, alternative transportation services, such as ride-share and car-sharing, and how institutional supports, such as providing on-demand vanpool, can promote mobility of community-dwelling older adults. First, we will analyze data from various sources, including Census, General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), carsharing and ridesharing operations, and community-based paratransit service to identify available transportation access and mobility options for older adults in the greater Dallas, Texas. Secondly, we will conduct a survey with older adults participating in home- and community-based programs (e.g., caregiver support program, elder financial safety center, and retired senior volunteer programs) to understand their mobility needs, the usage of available transportation options, potential barriers, and assistance they expect from public or private entities. Thirdly, factor analysis will be applied to the collected data to develop planning and policy strategies that would enhance the mobility and accessibility of older adults by understanding the relationships among respondents’ mobility, neighborhood environments, and accessible transportation service. A collaborative workshop with a technical advisory committee (TAC) will be administered to obtain expert feedback on the feasibility of initial planning and strategy suggestions. Lastly, an agent-based model will be developed to predict the impact of enhanced policy and planning strategies on mobility outcomes for older adults.
The results of this study will provide policymakers with actionable strategies for improving mobility for community-dwelling older adults, thereby improving their quality of life. The proposed project is closely linked to the NITC themes by addressing social equity in transportation access across older populations and by identifying strategies that can improve mobility and access among this transportation disadvantaged population.