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New Report from AARP Says Boomers Lifestyles Have Changed American Travel Patterns

All Americans are Traveling More to Doctors and Other Medical Providers

For Immediate Release                                                                   

Contact: Nancy Thompson



New Report from AARP Says Boomers Lifestyles Have Changed American Travel Patterns

All Americans are Traveling More to Doctors and Other Medical Providers

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Baby Boom Generation has been the demographic engine fueling much of the growth in travel over the past 40 years—both in the number of travelers and in the amount of travel per person according to a new report from the AARP Public Policy Institute.  “Impact of Baby Boomers on U.S. Travel, 1969 to 2009” looks at four decades of boomer travel data and concludes that the size of the boomer cohort, their housing preferences and the migration of women into the workforce have changed the way America travels. 

At the same time, a new travel pattern for all Americans has emerged.  While the distance traveled for the average trip to access medical services has remained about the same for the past three decades, the number of medical trips has skyrocketed for all Americans, not just boomers. 

“Just as boomers have changed everything before them from schools to work and housing, boomers have changed the way Americans travel, taking to the road in their teens and living behind the wheel as adults,” said Debra Whitman, AARP Executive Vice President for Policy. “The challenge will come when the generation that is turning the suburbs gray hangs up the keys.” 

As the baby boomer cohort ages, retired couples and single-person households are growing faster than households with children, according to the report.  At current rates by 2030 there will be 15 million non-drivers over the age of 65. 

“People who live past age 70 will outlive their driving years by seven to ten years on average,” said Whitman.  “We need to have options for those who no longer drive and should be addressing this growing need with changes to our transportation policy.”

 During the past four decades, the number of household vehicles nearly tripled, travel rates more than doubled, and total vehicle miles of travel grew at more than twice the rate of population growth, the report concludes. Two-thirds (67 percent) of this increase in travel by boomers since 1977 can be attributed to travel for non-work related household maintenance trips which grew fivefold—adding the equivalent of nearly one trip per day per person more than in 1977. 

At the same time, the 80 percent increase in the number of commuters from the baby boom workforce combined with a 30 percent increase in the average commute distance led to a doubling of miles for work travel between 1977 and 2009. In that time period total private vehicle miles increased from 900 billion in the U.S. per year to 2.2 trillion per year.

“When the baby boomers started building families, they acquired ‘his’ and ‘hers’ cars, spread a housing boom to the suburban fringes, and, with the advent of dual-earner families, exhibited a strong reliance on ‘outsourced’ household support, such as day care and eating out, that required travel,” the report states. This “maintenance travel” emerged with the boomers and has remained a pattern with subsequent generations, changing the way that transportation engineers plan for the future.

As the baby boomers continue moving into the empty-nest and retirement stages of their lives, not only are they traveling fewer miles, they may also be shifting some of their travel preferences. The trends in transit use show a steady increase in the number of transit trips per person as the Baby Boom Generation ages, and a noticeable increase in 2009. On average, boomers took twice as many trips per person on public transit in 2009 than in 1977, when they were aged 16 to 32 years old. Their use of public transportation, as measured as a share of their total trips by any means, also increased by more than 30 percent since its lowest level in 1990.

The National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) data series is a source of information on trends in travel by people in the United States. The household, person, and travel data for 1977, 1983, 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2009 were directly analyzed for this report; information from the earliest survey in 1969 is available only in published documents and used when those data are available. As a crosssectional survey, the NHTS offers a series of snapshots that can be assembled to create a picture of important trends in travel over the past four decades. In addition, data from the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics were used as needed. People born between 1946 and 1964 are identified as baby boomers, and only people aged 16 and older were included in the analysis, unless otherwise stated.

The full report “Impact of Baby Boomers on U.S. Travel, 1969 to 2009” is available at

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for Americans 50+ and the world's largest-circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for the 50+ audience; AARP VIVA, a bilingual lifestyle multimedia platform addressing the interests and needs of Hispanic Americans; and national television and radio programming including My Generation and Inside E Street. The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at

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