Oh the places you’ll go….if you have a car

October 24, 2010 at 9:46 am 2 comments

It’s a big world out there, but can you access it without a car? That sound you hear is a resounding “no!”   Without some sort of transportation, our local communities are feeling even bigger. As an Occupational Therapist that provides environmental modification services, I am passionate about accessibility.  In many instances I can create an accessible environment in someone’s home, workplace or even their favorite local spot, but how do they get from point A to point B?

I am talking about the issue of sprawl providing few or no options for a pedestrian or cyclist.  Limited public transportation creating a further disconnect from the community, unless you have a car or can be driven.  This national dilemma hit home for me this summer.  My parents, both in their 70s, live in a suburban neighborhood.  My father, being the primary transportation as my mother does not drive, had an unexpected six-week hospitalization.  My first reaction– drop everything and go help to set up my Mom with everything that she might need that requires a car– grocery shopping being at the top of the list.  Although I was being helpful, I could not help but continue to think how much she has to rely on someone else to be able to get around her community.  Sure, she could pay a taxi, but how many seniors on a fixed income would be able to afford such a service over a long period of time?  She could use the senior citizen bus (which she did) but this was only to go to and from medical appointments.  What if she wanted to go to the mall, go see a movie, visit a friend?  Another option might be for her to live in a 55+ community that offers a bus as an amenity, or, temporarily/permanently move in with me, but that would mean uprooting her from the community that she has lived in for almost 40 years.

Aging in Place has been talked about more and more, but the concept of “Aging in Community” is looking at the bigger picture.   The CDC Healthy Aging Research Network is focusing on just that—how the total environment is impacting a person’s ability to access community features and how this is subsequently impacting health and wellness.  It is a national issue that is gaining more press recently, with some areas of the country, such as Atlanta and Portland, moving further forward than others.

So how do we create livable communities?  One movement is Complete Streets. This is allowing for everyone (pedestrian of any age, motorist, bicyclist, wheelchair user, bus rider, etc) to safely utilize the streets.  “Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind.”  But, it is not just about the streets.  It is having a well-planned community where your housing is also near shops, green spaces, jobs and public transportation, to alleviate the need of having to jump in a car to access life outside your home.

More and more communities are talking with their state and local politicians advocating for the creation of a more livable environment.  Having access to grants and/or state and federal funding in combination with the support from your politicians to put policy change into effect is what is needed for the success of these initiatives.

How livable is your community?  What is happening on this front in your home-town?

Entry filed under: Accessibility, Aging-In-Place design, Universal Design. Tags: , , , , , , .

Take me out to the ballgame! Do your favorite brands universally design their products?

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Despr8caregiver  |  October 25, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Bill and I are very excited to have recently learned that there is a virtual retirement village in place in our neighborhood in Denver. It is called Washington Park Cares and offers a variety of services including free transportation available at a phone call for a year membership fee.

    What a relief to know that friendly neighbors are out there, reading and willing to help when needed. You can see my post about discovering this service at http://www.desperatecaregivers.com/the-intentional-community-model-of-aging-in-place

    The questions you are raising are ones that everyone with aging parents or who is aging themselves need to address–and isn’t that everybody? Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Inside Aging Parent Care

    • 2. empowerability  |  October 26, 2010 at 6:45 am

      Hi Carol,

      Thank you very much for your comment and the information about the transportation services setup in your community. I am familiar with the growing trend of NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) and think they are a great option until our communities are more universally designed. On November 11-12, 2010, they are actually having a National Village Gathering in Philadelphia. Here is the link for more information: http://vtvnetwork.clubexpress.com/


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