A new study led by the University of Plymouth has said that governments across Europe could do more to develop transport policies enabling people aged over 65 to remain mobile and active. As the average age of Europe's population rises, the necessity and urgency of such policies is set to increase.
The research team assessed policy documents from across the European Union, Switzerland and Norway, and spoke to government employees from over 20 countries to gauge to what extent national governments encouraged the age-friendly qualities of transport systems.
In turn, this enabled them to ascertain how far individual countries fostered independence, mobility, and social economic inclusion amongst older people. The analysis picked out 146 documents from 29 countries that were deemed as falling under the EU's guidelines on 'people with reduced mobility'. Of these, 63% focused solely on older people.
These were then scored against a set of 11 different qualities, which sought to establish if the possible measures the documents outlined were focused on being: affordable; comprehensible; efficient; friendly; available, barrier-free; comfortable; reliable; safe; and secure and transparent.
The extent to which these characteristics are featured varies across Europe, but the research team found that safety, affordability, and barrier-free access were overly emphasised at both national and EU level. They concluded that a more rounded approach could actually result in heightened mobility amongst older people.
The project was conducted as part of the EU-funded Transport Needs for an Ageing Society (TRACY) project and led by Research Fellow Rebecca Johnson and Jon Shaw, Professor of Transport Geography, from Plymouth University's School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences.
Professor Shaw commented that "improving the quality of the transport system for older people generally means improving it for everyone", whilst "increasingly flexible thought will need to be devoted to their [older people's] transport system needs."
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