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Managing Mobility: Addressing Transportation Needs of Seniors

Sep 30, 2016
Daniel Munro

Associate Director
Public Policy

In 2015, Canada was home to nearly 5.8 million seniors (age 65+), or 16 per cent of the country’s total population. By 2025, more than one in five Canadians (20.7 per cent) will be seniors, and nearly one in four (24.4 per cent) will be in the senior cohort by 2040.1 Canada’s rapidly aging population not only poses challenges to health care and the economy, it also creates larger and more pressing transportation challenges and risks.

Upcoming Release on Seniors’ Transportation by the Conference Board

Some key challenges and opportunities for improving transportation policy for seniors are discussed in the recent briefing, Managing Mobility: Transportation in an Aging Society, released jointly by the Conference Board’s Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care and Centre for Transportation and Infrastructure on October 19th. It examines how seniors currently meet their transportation needs and preferences, changes in transportation strategies and behaviours as seniors age, and the nature and extent of unmet transportation needs. The briefing also considers how differences in demographics affect transportation needs, behaviours, and gaps, and discusses implications for policies and strategies.

More Mobility Options Allow Seniors Achieve Better Health

Although age alone is not a direct indicator of health and ability, seniors are more likely to report limitations in mental and physical ability than younger adults.2 This affects the nature of transportation-related risks and has implications for how seniors’ mobility needs and preferences are met. When individuals, at any age, have mobility options that allow them to achieve a range of benefits they are better able to sustain their health and quality of life and make contributions to their families and communities. Unfortunately, too few seniors have access to affordable and appropriate transportation options.

Driving is the Primary Mode of Transportation for Most Canadian Seniors

Among seniors aged 65 to 74, 68 per cent reported driving their own vehicle as their main form of transportation (see chart). By age 85 or older, only 31 per cent relied on driving as their main mode of transportation, while less than 8 per cent relied on public transit and 5 per cent walked or cycled. Most of the remaining seniors rely on rides from family, friends and others.

Addressing the Challenges Will not be Easy

Transportation policies and strategies for an aging society must strike a balance between maximizing benefits, minimizing risks, and respecting the rights and dignity of seniors and other citizens. The steps that society might consider to improve transportation for Canada’s growing population of seniors include:

  • Improving driver cessation policies and practices to help manage driving risks as people age.
  • Expanding and enhancing transportation services to reduce seniors’ dependence on private vehicles either as drivers or passengers.
  • Improving the built environment to make walking and cycling more appealing and accessible and to reduce risks for all drivers and pedestrians.

The briefing will explore further the challenges and opportunities in meeting the transportation needs of Canadian seniors. Read Managing Mobility: Transportation in an Aging Society  on The Conference Board of Canada e-library.

Related Webinar

1    Calculations based on Statistics Canada, CANSIM 051-0001.

2    Canadian Institute for Health Information, Health Care in Canada 2011,17–19.

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