The car plays a dominant role in allowing people to maintain the type of independent mobility that enables them to remain an active part of society well into their old age, especially in industrialized countries. Habit, the convenience and efficiency that this form of mobility offers, and secondary motives such as an enjoyment of driving and the need for individuality and independence all play a key role in the perceived attractiveness of the car for people of all ages. Older people’s sense of satisfaction and perceived quality of life are also closely linked to this.
If we want switching to public transport to become an option, for example, we will need inclusive mobility concepts that incorporate the needs of older people as a matter of course. One of the initiatives that has been important in getting the ball rolling in this regard is the EU-funded TRACY project (Transport Needs for an Aging Society), which ran from 2011 to 2013. The objective of this project was to develop a plan of action that would help to tackle the challenges facing trans-port services in an aging society.
After compiling, analyzing and assessing the existing strategies for all forms of land transport in the EU member states and comparable countries (Switzerland, Norway, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Japan), the TRACY team drew up proposed solutions for ensuring mobility for older people, and also defined the requirements for a transport system that is suitable for older people. In particular, the project stated that such a system must be easily accessible, easy to reach, available and barrier free, and also comfortable, comprehensible and efficient. It was also deemed import ant that older people feel welcome when using the transport system, and not be treated like a burden or a nuisance. Finally, the other characteristics defined in the report included a high degree of reliability, safety (in terms of both road safety and a sense of personal safety), usability and transparency.
The proposals formulated in the TRACY project can very much be seen as universal design solutions. It was recommended that the following maxim should always be applied when implementing a transport system in any area: even after letting go of automotive mobility, older people have the right to a transport system that helps them to maintain their quality of and satisfaction with life.
Nevertheless, driving will remain a key component of personal mobility for senior citizens in the future, and may even become more important for them. Even as the alternative services on offer continue to improve, the needs of older car drivers must be taken into account when planning and designing infrastructure – to an even greater extent than they are today.