“Our world is isolating and disempowering for the 32 percent of Americans who do not even have a driver’s license…. And older Americans — who will number 77 million by the year 2034 — are one group who suffer disproportionately from this world we’ve built,” writes Daniel Herriges, of Strong Towns.
Most of the world as we know it was designed for drivers. And our streets, which were designed for the automobile, have not changed, continuing to prioritize cars over people. As our population grows older, the problems of being a car-oriented society will only grow.
Walking is dangerous
For seniors who have never driven, or no longer can, walking can be a dangerous activity. Traffic control devices are often designed with younger, more nimble people in mind, making crossing streets a daily challenge for the elderly. According to Dangerous By Design the danger for pedestrians between the ages of 50 and 74 is more than a third higher, and for people 75 and over, almost twice as high, as the general population.
In a walkable city like New York City, where seniors number 12 percent of the population, they make up 38 percent of all pedestrian fatalities. The need for pedestrian safety led the city, in 2008, to put in place a Safe Streets for Seniors program which has been addressing senior pedestrian safety issues over the last decade, helping to decrease senior fatalities by 17 percent, citywide.
Without a car, visiting friends and family, going grocery shopping or just getting to a doctor’s appointment is far more difficult and reduces a person’s independence. This can lead to isolation, a widespread problem among the elderly who find themselves withdrawing, and disconnecting from family, friends and the community.
A recent study in the Journal of Medicine and Health, focusing on social engagement and participation for seniors who no longer drive, found that the rate of social isolation was twice as high as those seniors who are still able to drive.
The message is that we need to make safe, walkable cities while making our built environment more accessible for those who don’t drive, including the increasing number of those who no longer can.
Read the original article from Strong Towns here.
Image by Andreas Glöckner from Pixabay