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Will 70 Million Americans be Stranded in 2030?

A survey released by the American Public Transportation System shows expected but still staggering statistics on the mobility for aging Americans. The survey states that 82 percent of Americans age 65 or older worry that they will be stranded and unable to get around when they can no longer drive. Maintaining independence was rated as “extremely important” for 98 percent of the survey’s respondents.

“These findings are dramatic proof that America’s older citizens believe staying mobile is essential and that ‘mobility security’ just like ‘financial security’ and ‘medical security’ needs to be planned for,” said William W. Millar, president of APTA.

More than 70 million people will be 65 years of age or older by 2030. This fact was not lost on the attendees of the White House Conference on Aging a few weeks ago. The resolution to “Ensure that Older Americans Have Transportation Options to Retain Their Mobility and Independence” received the third most votes out of the 73 resolutions presented to the conference. This resolution will be one of the 50 that will be sent to Congress and President Bush with the intent of guiding the national aging policies over the course of the next 10 years.

Mobility for seniors is one of the topics that really gets me fired up. So often I feel that the needs of older Americans are just cast aside in this country, although this is hardly just an American issue. There are so many glaring issues to address on nearly every street – crossing intervals at intersections that are much too short for all persons to safely cross, lack of adequate curb ramps, and dangerous cross slopes.

All people that design or construct pedestrian facilities should try and navigate around in a wheelchair on the sidewalks and streets for several hours (at a minimum) to get a feel for what it is like to have a disability and have to get around. I guarantee that our facilities would be designed at least slightly better after that experience. Even in the most walkable places, navigation for seniors and people with disabilities is extremely difficult. Many walkable places are historic, older places that do not have modern facilities compliant with today’s standards.

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