Age and mobility must be considered when creating policies for age-friendly cities, research from King’s has found.
The recent study analysed travel diary data from London residents between 2005 and 2015.
According to the research, 16% of Londoners on average did not leave the house on any given day. Older people are particularly prone to this, with people in their 70s being twice as likely as people of working age to stay at home all day.
The health benefits of mobility for older people are well documented. Mobility directly contributes to physical activity, as most non-car travel entails some ‘active travel’, such as walking to a bus stop.
Travel facilitates social inclusion, which is particularly pertinent for older people, as isolation is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, decreased immune system efficacy and mortality.
By 2035 there will be over 750,000 Londoners over the age of 75, therefore it is key that the city is developed with older people in mind. Public transport plays a key role, with buses identified as a means of tackling chronic loneliness or isolation, by providing an opportunity for social interaction.
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Accessible public transport in cities therefore has the potential to foster physical activity and interaction, and to mitigate the loss of mobility older citizens are at risk of.
Despite this, transport systems continue to favour those who are physically agile, can move quickly and have the necessary cognitive skills to navigate complicated transport networks. Researchers therefore recommend that policies must consider age-friendly environments.
Initiatives like Transport for London’s (TfL) Healthy Streets Approach aim to improve air quality, reduce congestion and help make London’s communities greener and healthier. Co-author of the paper, Lucy Saunders, Public Health Specialist at TfL, said: ‘The objective of the Healthy Streets Approach is to transform London and improve the lives of all those who live in, work in and visit the city.’
As well as old age being associated with a lack of mobility, those who were disabled, retired, unemployed or unable to work were less likely to leave the house.