Mobility for Older Adults

Some segments of society face certain challenges to mobility that others in the general population do not. In the transportation arena, special populations can include immigrants, racial or ethnic groups, older people, and individuals with disabilities. TSRC’s current research is examining special populations’ travel patterns to see what can be done to remove any mobility barriers they may face and to enhance their mobility. TSRC’s past projects in this area explored extending safe travel for older people.


  • Researchers at TSRC have teamed with Nissan in a four-year research effort to explore methods of improving older mobility. TSRC is investigating the feasibility of implementing a pilot carsharing program into the Rossmoor Senior Adult Community in Walnut Creek, California, using Nissan’s electric Leaf and ITS technology. The pilot project would station a number of Nissan Leafs in the Rossmoor community and train residents in the carsharing system and electric vehicles. The electric Leafs would be equipped with telematics instrumentation that would record vehicle performance, energy use, and travel patterns, which TSRC would use to evaluate the environmental and business performance.


  • The number of senior communities is on the rise in California and residents in these types of communities may have distinct travel patterns and needs. The primary objective of this study was to develop preliminary specifications for carsharing in Rossmoor Retirement Center in Walnut Creek, California, including a Rossmoor carsharing pilot program business model. Preliminary specifications included number of vehicles; number and possible location of charging stations; distance to access vehicles and/or valet services; car body, propulsion, speed, and other features; price and membership structure. A second objective was to inquire with participating households on their willingness to carpool and trip chain as part of this study. Data from in-depth household interviews with Rossmoor households regarding their daily travel and their interest in carsharing, types of carsharing fleet vehicles, carpooling, and trip chaining were used to inform this analysis.
  • Researchers at TSRC have conducted two studies on safe auto and transit use for older travelers at the Rossmoor Retirement Center in Walnut Creek, California. Rossmoor is approximately two miles from downtown Walnut Creek and two and a half miles from the BART station. The complementary focus of each study (i.e., driving vs. transit use) led to synergistic insights that benefited both studies. The first study was a Toyota Motor Corporation funded project that explores seniors’ driving behavior with a series of focus groups that specifically address issues related to driving impediments and safety concerns. The findings led to recommendations for potential vehicle design solutions. In the second study, funded by the Mineta Institute and Caltrans, TSRC researchers created a transit training video to educate residents of Rossmoor about navigating the local transit system. As part of the study, researchers conducted several survey sessions before and after showing the video to evaluate the effectiveness of the video in addressing concerns of the targeted population. After viewing the video, respondents indicated a significant and positive change in transit use to the specific destinations portrayed in the video; however, results are mixed for transit travel to more general destinations that are not explicitly portrayed in the video. The video also educated viewers about a broader range of information sources, such as the Internet and After viewing the video, respondents indicated a significant and positive change in their future stated use of these information sources.
  • Many older people have special travel needs which can limit their mobility. Some feel less comfortable behind the wheel or traveling alone, and some are forced to give up their driver’s licenses because of age-related disabilities. It is critical to address the special needs of older travelers -- to prevent them from becoming isolated because of a lack of transportation options, and to prevent traffic accidents that might occur because of a decline in their driving abilities. Transportation options including public transit must be made available to older people, however, this aging sector of society may be unfamiliar with transit. TSRC, in conjunction with the Transportation Safety Center, sought to evaluate a transit training class at the Rossmoor Retirement Center in Walnut Creek, California, and identify other barriers that may prevent seniors from taking transit. The transit training class taught Rossmoor residents how to reach frequent destinations by bus, transit fares and where to access transit information. Rossmoor residents were surveyed immediately before and after undergoing transit training. A longitudinal study with participants from up to two years ago evaluated if the Rossmoor transit training class has changed participant behavior in the long term. This project was built upon a past project funded by Caltrans and the Mineta Institute.




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