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Thread: Today's WSJ article on seniors behind the wheel

  1. #1

    Today's WSJ article on seniors behind the wheel

    WSJ.com - Coaxing Seniors Out From Behind the Wheel
    The need for new programs is urgent. With the gap between so-called driving expectancy and life expectancy increasing, large numbers of the country's 78 million baby boomers may try to continue driving even when their skills and senses falter. The annual number of fatal crashes caused by older drivers is expected to more than double by 2030, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, Va. Drivers who are at least 65 years old are expected to account for 16% of all crashes and 25% of all fatal crashes by 2030. Drivers who are 75 and older have higher crash rates per mile traveled than all groups but 16- to 18-year-olds. And bodily-injury liability claims nearly double for drivers who are 85 and older, meaning that they are more often at fault in crashes than younger drivers, according to the insurance institute.

    There is an emotional toll as well. Already, more than half of Americans age 65 or older who can't drive -- almost four million people -- stay home on any given day because they lack transportation, according to the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a Washington nonprofit group. The limbo in which former drivers find themselves can last years, according to 2002 research by the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md. Older men who stop driving become dependent on alternative transportation for six years on average; older women need help for 10 years. Former drivers also report higher levels of depression than active drivers, the University of California Traffic Safety Center reported last year.

    All this has fueled "a groundswell" in new transportation options, says Helen Kerschner, chief executive of the Beverly Foundation in Pasadena, Calif., which has studied transportation options for older people since 1999.
    Two words you won't find in this article: walkable communities

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Couldn't agree more. Perhaps if we hadn't constructed a nation so tied to the automobile and sprawl the elderly would still be able to socialize and interact among society rather than being depressed, isolated and ostracized from the rest of the world.

  3. #3
    as I said the article doesn't mention better neighborhood design and walkability as a possible solution. it's assumed that the only method of getting from point A to point B is driving (or riding), for anybody.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Shouldn't this belong in transportation? This is a problem transportation planners have been struggling with for years and why its so important to provide pathways and public transit. Many folks are driving because of a fear of loing their independance. Transportation planners strive for alternative modes of travel because not everyone has the same accessibility to be mobile.
    Last edited by DetroitPlanner; 12 Jan 2006 at 4:21 PM.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    The only problem is the elderly who have to give up driving are often unable to walk great distances anyways. So the density needed to ensure mobilty would have to be quite high.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983
    The only problem is the elderly who have to give up driving are often unable to walk great distances anyways. So the density needed to ensure mobilty would have to be quite high.
    medium density + public transportation would do

  7. #7
    It always comes down to costs.
    In developing nations where the average wage earner finds the cost of personal transportation beyond their means, reliance on mass transit becomes paramount for their transportation needs.
    In urban areas with high densities, alternative transit becomes more viable and self sustainning. What happens in suburban neighborhoods?
    A good example of the effectiveness of an intergrated transit system can be seen in the island republic of Singapore. Buses, light rail and subway systems are all tied together with a single ticketing system that uses a scannable card on all these systems. They call it Ez-link. It can even be used to purchase selected retail items.
    Plus taxi cabs are failry affordable. Cost of owning a car is high compared to the States. From what I have seen, the elderly get around fairly well though they still need to improve accessibility.

    Most communities here are sprawl based. While it would be nice to design walkable communities for future developments, it doesn't address the immediate need. Who pays for the availability of alternative transportation system? Actually one good effect of a large number of baby boomers reaching this threshold age, is that their numbers may galvanized more cities to respond to this problem and not ignore it.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    The lack of mixed-housing type neighborhoods is also a big problem. If Grandma or grandpa could live in an accessory apartment with their children, or in a flat around the corner, it would be a lot easier for families to help each other. As it is, older people tend to be isolated in "adult housing communities" "assisted living centers", etc. We in the US are so afraid of mixed housing types. Here in Germany, on the same (relatively new, suburban) block, you find single family homes with yards, attached rowhouses, 6-apartment buildings, homes with basement/attic apartments for grandma, the nanny, or a young adult, and even homes that are easily convertable from single family to two-dwelling units.

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