Nearly all older Americans say they want to live independently in their homes and communities for as long as possible. AARP believes older Americans should have that opportunity, and we have been working to ensure they do. But unless people have safe, convenient and affordable transportation options, they will be stuck at home or will be at greater risk on the roads than they need to be. Having access to transportation is critical to staying connected to family and friends and to pursuing day-to-day activities, both those that are essential and those that enhance the quality of life.
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Today, too many older Americans are "aging in place" in communities where travel by car is their only transportation option. For those who do not drive (nearly 8 million people age 65 and over), there are few transportation alternatives, and fewer safe alternatives. Most depend on family and friends for rides, but may feel guilty asking for "nonessential" trips, such as to the library, a restaurant or a movie.
Public transportation is very limited or nonexistent in America's suburbs and rural areas, where most older people live, and there is no indication that the situation will improve soon. In fact, a recent study by Transportation for America finds that by 2015, more than 15.5 million Americans 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or nonexistent. Further, 60 percent of people age 50 and over said in an AARP survey that they did not have public transportation within a 10-minute walk from their homes. And 53 percent said they did not have a sidewalk outside their home.
Over half of individuals who do not drive stay home on any given day. And even when they leave their homes, their time out tends to be limited: Compared to similar-age people who drive, 15 percent of those who don't drive make fewer trips to the doctor, 59 percent make fewer trips to shop or eat out, and 65 percent make fewer trips to visit friends and family.