Staying Here and Staying Mobile
The Post ran a very interesting series on growing older in Washington that is relevant to our discussions on transportation.
On Sunday, Annie Gowen pointed out that in two decades, one of every four drivers will be a senior citizen. She talked with a Falls Church retiree named Rita Turner who decided she was too old to drive, gave up her car and now regrets it every day, because it's so difficult to get around the suburbs without an automobile.
In today's paper, Fredrick Kunkle focused on life in the aging suburb of Fort Hunt in Fairfax County and a gas station that figured out it had to offer more full service pumps to help out people no longer comfortable using the self service.
Whenever I talk with retirees and senior citizens, their questions are similar: They want to know how they can stay here and stay mobile.
Some of the answers are in what they can do for themselves. That includes taking courses to maintain their driving skills. Both AAA and AARP offer them frequently. They also, as the two stories point out, can organize themselves into self-help groups with more mobile people taking care of the driving assignments to help out others.
Some of the answers involve government, civic and corporate action. The aging baby boomers are so numerous that they will affect the design of our transportation system. Communities need to become more walkable, road signs clearer, transit systems more extensive. Planners need to find more room for senior-oriented housing near transit centers.
We've seen some of this accommodation in recent years. Many of the local bus systems have introduced new vehicles and new services that help the elderly and disabled. These include the kneeling buses and wheelchair ramps. They also include the fare breaks for seniors traveling at midday.
That won't be enough. The numbers tell us that. Now's the time to be planning to help our parents and ourselves as the elderly population begins a surge that will last for several decades.
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