This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Life in the Slow Lane

Baby boomers in the United States (and in Canada and Western Europe as well) represent not only a disproportionate fraction of the population, but an increasingly large fraction of all drivers. A symposium at the National Transportation Safety Board this week was treated to the news that 15 years from now, one in five of all licensed drivers in the United States will be age 65 or older. This is related not simply to aging, but also to the fact that the boomers are growing older mainly in the suburbs and exurbs, where there is very little in the way of public transportation. This essentially forces people to keep driving as they get older, because they have few other options.

Smarter cars and better designed roads may help keep them [older peoople] stay behind the wheel longer. But eventually most people will outlive their driving ability — men by an average of six years and women by an average of 10 years. And since fewer Americans relocate when they retire, many of them probably will continue to live in suburban homes. The result is a "mobility gap," Joseph Coughlin, head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab, which develops technologies aimed at keeping older people active, said in an interview. "For many, our homes will not be just a place to age, it will also be house arrest," said Coughlin. Older drivers who are healthy aren't necessarily any less safe than younger drivers. But many older drivers are likely to have age-related medical conditions that can affect their driving.

1 comment:

  1. Before her passing, my grandmother took advantage of a bus program in Vista that was designed to combat this notion of "house arrest." For about what it cost her to operate her personal mode of transportation, she was able to run errands, get herself to medical appointments, and attend social functions.

    If cities cannot afford to establish and maintain public transportation routes into these outlying areas, maybe they can use a portion of their transportation budget to subsidize private charters like this bus to ensure that their roads and citizens are safe, no matter which age bracket they belong in.