Shergold, I., Parkhurst, G. and Musselwhite, C.
Rural car dependence: An emerging barrier to community activity for older people?
Universities' Transport Study Group 43rd Annual Conference, Milton Keynes, UK, 5-7 January 2011.
Publisher's URL: http://www.utsg.net/conf.php
Community activity is identified as a key contributor to quality of life for many older people, and mobility is central to its facilitation. Following the premise that community activity enables the accumulation of social capital within a community, a link is proposed between ‘mobility capital’ and the sustainability of that community. As older people comprise a growing share of rural populations, they are of increasing importance to both kinds of capital within those communities. However, their mobility is problematic, due to limitations in physical capacities and access to transport. This paper also contends that rural mobility issues are compounded by an increasing focus, in policy and practice, on the car as a mobility solution. To explore this hypothesis, the engagement with community activity of a sample of rural elders living in Southwest England and Wales is examined, drawing on a survey and semi-structured interviews. Key findings were that car availability was important in seniors achieving ‘connectedness’, although by no means a panacea, and that most journeys for community activity were shorter than 1.5 km. Given the importance of activities to wellbeing it is therefore concluded that more emphasis should be placed in rural transport policy on facilitating short-range travel for social purposes, including walking, cycling and the use of mobility scooters.
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