Designing age-friendly communities: A mixed methods investigation into built environments that support older adults' access to transportation

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Transportation is a critical link that enables older adults to connect with family and friends and access health care services, recreational opportunities, and other essential goods and services. And yet the current transportation system is not designed to meet the day-to-day needs of the aging population. This dissertation contributes empirical evidence to inform the design of built environments and transportation systems, so that older adults can age in place and remain connected to their communities. I used a convergent mixed methods study design, serving to characterize travel behaviour and unmet needs of older Canadians (Chapter 2) and to contribute empirical evidence to inform solutions to this challenge (Chapters 3 and 4). The first two studies leveraged large national datasets: the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA, n= 14.167) and the Targeting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (THEPA, n=27,162). The CLSA data showed that driving, either as driver or passenger, is the main way that the vast majority (90.2%) of older adults get around. Even with driving being so common, the THEPA survey revealed high support amongst older adults and the general population for built environment interventions intended to improve walking and cycling environments. Older adults with an unmet travel need were more likely to be women, have lower household incomes and education levels, have a mobility limitation, and rely on shared or active modes of transportation for getting around. Further, having an unmet travel need was associated with poorer health status and levels of social connectedness. The third study presents case studies of promising models of community-based seniors transportation in British Columbia. The case studies underscored the important role that the community-based seniors' services sector plays in providing transportation to older adults, in particular for those who had unmet travel need, and the need for a more systematic approach to funding services in this sector. Collectively, this thesis points to transportation solutions that can be applied to advance age-friendly communities and improve outcomes for people of all ages and abilities.
135 pages.
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Thesis advisor: Winters, Meghan
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