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Mobility and the elderly: a complex issue (Belgium)

By News Editor / Updated: 29 Aug 2014

Nowadays, the elderly are a minority of the Belgian population. In 2010, 1 out of 4 Belgians will be 60 years or older. Knowledge about their mobility patterns and mobility needs is gaining importance since it will have an impact on the whole transportation system. To increase understanding, Mobiel 21 conducted a literature survey as part of the research project MESsAGE (Mobility and the Elderly: Successful Ageing in a Sustainable Transport System).

Background & Objectives

The objective of the MESsAGE-project is to contribute to the prolonging of the autonomy of mobility for the elderly. Regarding the elderly, the project wants to:

  • gain insight in mobility patterns; future trends and determinants of behaviour towards mobility;
  • gain insight in needs for mobility and perceptions regarding sustainable mobility;
  • assess the impact of behaviour towards mobility in terms of economical, social, environmental and traffic sustainability;
  • test new methods to promote and increase participation in local mobility policies.


The literature research shows that the elderly are less mobile than others; they are less likely to leave their homes or to travel over large distances. The car as main transport mode holds a dominant position, it is considered by elderly as the best fit for their needs. The prevalence of transportation by car will increase in the future, as the next generation of elderly will be more mobile.

The elderly find public transportation less suited because it is focused on transporting many travellers during peak periods and mostly requires additional transportation. Cyclists are more experienced but they are more at risk of accidents. Of all population groups, the elderly are most likely to walk but are also the most dissatisfied: they feel unsafe and come across many conflict situations along their way.

Research shows that elderly are not more involved in traffic accidents than other population groups but they are much more likely to sustain serious injuries or lethal accidents. The elderly do have more insights in their own capabilities so they avoid taking risks. Encouraging elderly to use more sustainable transport modes could cause a negative effect on traffic safety so supportive measures are required.


The elderly continue to expand and as a group they are becoming more heterogeneous: some elderly are able to move around perfectly while others require assistance. The international literature survey clearly shows that because of these and other characteristics a uniform mobility plan for the elderly is not applicable; the mobility of the elderly remains therefore a complex issue.

More information

The complete literature review is available on the Mobiel 21 website

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Accessible public transport vehicles
25 Oct 2007
29 Aug 2014
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