An Age-Friendly City will ensure universal mobility for all citizens regardless of age, with tools like accessible and affordable public transit to ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods.
Citizens of all ages have the right to fully engage in the social, economic, and cultural life of their City. This means being able to attend community events, seek social services, meet with friends and fellow residents alike – it means being a part of the social and economic fabric of civic life. Being integrated, therefore, requires safe, affordable access to public transit, but it also means building community hubs around the needs of all citizens.
As people age, they tend to move from family to non-family situations. This transition can be accompanied by a loss of income, social isolation and a growing need for a variety of supports to help them to maintain their independence, not the least of which is the ability to navigate the city safely and effectively.
Navigating the city can be challenge for many residents, including seniors. Newcomers, however, face additional challenges in being settled and adapting to life in the City. For older citizens who may not speak English or be familiar with the city’s customs and speed of movement, isolation and immobility can be a serious challenge.
Mobility is the key factor in allowing older people to stay in their own homes and ensuring that they have access to health and social services. Transportation is one element of mobility; the other is urban design that allows people to walk to the places they want to go. Inaccessible and expensive transit options are a major contributor to sedentary living and social isolation amongst the ageing population. Affordability and accessibility are the two cornerstones of transportation in an age-friendly city. Municipalities must ensure that transit is responsive to the varying physical capabilities and financial needs of people of all ages.
Mobility: Transit and Community Hubs
Moving around –
While many cities provide accessible public transportation to get people with mobility challenges to medical appointments, these “para-transit” services often present barriers that compromise their utility for the very people they serve. For example, some services prohibit caregivers from accompanying older clients to their appointments. In some cases, accessible transportation is only available for medical appointments and therefore prevents people from accessing other community supports and activities.
At the same time, the physical requirements of taking public transit (such as walking long distances between transit stops) may limit the accessibility of public transit for people with mobility challenges. Improvements to transit accessibility can be accomplished by applying an age-friendly accessibility approach to all aspects of public transit.
For example, the public transit system could:
• Provide consistent and reliable service even in off-peak hours,
• Establish a stop request program that allows seniors travelling alone during non-rush hour times to be dropped off in between official transit stops, provided it is safe to do so.
• Establish a transit information line that provides up to the minute information on service delivery.
• Review accessible transit protocols to eliminate barriers that compromise the utility of transit services for older users and incorporate outcome-based policies for accessible transit.
• Establish a citizens’ accessibility audit program to report publicly on deficiencies and achievements
• Establish national transit forums whereby local transit authorities share accessibility best practices.
Staying put –
Social inclusion and increased civic participation can also be achieved by fostering and creating neighbourhoods centred on community hubs that reduce the need for travelling around the city.