Transportation influences health through its effects on people's access to goods, services, and life chance opportunities; social interactions; physical activity levels; air pollution exposures; and road injury risks. Given the ageing of populations, it is essential that decisions about land use and transportation systems are appropriate to meet the mobility needs of older people and support healthy ageing. Not all transportation options, however, may be accessible to older people. Factors that affect accessibility relate to the spatial and physical characteristics of places, personal and social contexts of individuals, and rules and norms underpinning planning and policy making.
This research aimed to understand how different parts and processes of urban systems interact to influence transportation options for older people. Using the Greater Sydney area as a case, we drew on key informant interviews and public policy documents to identify the considerations that inform planning and policy making as they pertain to the nature of cities and the opportunities of older people to get out and about. We compared and integrated these findings with peer-reviewed literature of similar urban growth areas.
Our analysis mapped the factors of the human-urban system that are central to enabling transportation mobility for older people, articulated their interrelationships, and identified the actors that influence them. Our results point to the involvement of actors from the public health, community development, transportation, and urban planning sectors at multiple levels of government. Each of these actors operate within their own remit to influence a part of the urban system relevant to older people's transportation, such as the zoning of land, the approval of housing developments, and the location of bus stops. However, these individual actions are constrained by others in the system. We interpret this complexity with a governance lens.
Efforts to promote mobility in old age should move beyond ‘single solutions to single issues’ approaches toward those that reflect the complexity of cities and the ways that people move within them.
For sustained realization of desired outcomes, age-friendly initiatives cannot occur in isolation, but rather must take into account the behaviours and dynamics of the urban system.