Seniors are currently the fastest growing age group in the state of California, and the amount of non-driving seniors is rising too. In fact, their numbers are expected to nearly double to 9 million over the next decade, with many counties in rural and suburban areas that rely on cars to get around. The issue is, what happens when these seniors can no longer drive around? Fatal car crashes rates nearly double every 5 years after the age of 70, with the 85+ age demographic having the highest fatal crash rate of any age demographic.
Currently, surveys from AARP show that more than two-thirds of seniors in America live in car-centric suburban neighborhoods and that most plan on staying there. Other research studies have have shown how transportation is one of the most critical factors in senior isolation is the ability to self-transport. Without the ability to freely move around, seniors may become disgruntled or depressed.
According to Stephanie Ramirez, associate state director of advocacy with AARP in California, transportation is “critical for older adults to be able to access health care and access opportunities to be social in their community.” One study from AARP in 2017 found that social isolation was one of the biggest preventable contributors to premature death in seniors, in addition to raising the likelihood of being admitted into a nursing home. This same study estimates that social isolation in seniors contributes to as much as $6.7 billion in annual Medicare expenses nationwide.
For seniors that aren’t able to drive anymore, getting around means relying on the goodwill of relatives, paying for mobile ride sharing (if they are able to), or relying on public transportation. Unfortunately, not every senior is able to rely on the kindness of friends and relatives to transport them around everywhere, and many more are unable to afford or don’t know how to hail ride share vehicles. Public transportation also offers its own challenges, being difficult for seniors or handicapped individuals to reach, plus sometimes being long and uncomfortable.
Para-transit also faces its own structural challenges. The service is mandated under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act but comes with no federal dollars to help local agencies pay for what can be wildly expensive. One study from the Brookings Institution found that transit agencies lose the most money on dial-a-ride trips. They cost an average of $23 per ride, while fares are only limited to double a regular transit ticket.
In 2018 California officials launched a pilot program using funds to partner with Lyft to provide subsidized rides for only 50 cents to residents within a local service area. More and more cities may look to hop on board in order to encourage senior residents to travel, socialize, and spend more money in cities and towns.
With the advent of self-driving cars, more seniors should be able to access low-cost, comfortable rides. Technology solutions can better serve adults at an advanced age by becoming more user friendly, and the ride-sharing industry would do well to help this demographic.
Better Technology For Seniors
Historically, seniors are usually the last group to adopt to a new technology. However, nowadays the generational divide seems to be closing when it comes to using the latest gadgets and tech upgrades. According to a recent Pew Research Report, 6 in 10 seniors now browse the internet, with 50% using broadband. Once seniors begin using the internet, the odds of them continuing to use it grow.
In fact, 71% of seniors who use the internet go online every day or almost every day. According to this same research report, 27% of seniors also own a tablet while 18% own a smartphone. Additionally, 81% of seniors who use social networking say that they use it to talk with friends or family on a daily basis. Seniors who socialize online are also more likely to socialize in person and may have a longer lifespan/better quality of life than their less social peers.
Bringing Technology to Senior Living Residents
Technology is important for senior life, because it helps those within senior living communities to continue living rich, and social lives, as well as to keep up with family members who may not be able to visit them. Once you reach a certain age, communication becomes more difficult to achieve with family members and friends. Fortunately, leveraging technology can allow seniors to reach those they may have been unable to talk with otherwise.
Technology, like medical alerts, are also a way to open senior’s lives to new experiences. Technologies such as iPads, smartphones, and Apple TV’s are all designed with user experience and accessibility first in mind. Some senior living communities may even give courses on teaching seniors how to engage with these technologies. Seniors can learn to access applications, play games, communicate with contacts, and more. Research shows that keeping senior minds engaged with these technologies could help strengthen cognitive function and enhance longevity.
As the senior population grows, as well as non-driving seniors, more adults will be living independently, with a caretaker, or at an assisted living facility. Many seniors choose to live independently, but sometimes age-related issues can impede this. However, according to some reports there are technological advancements that are being made to help seniors live independently later in life. As of now there are some tools and online applications that can be used to help seniors live happy and safely.
With all that said, there are some scenarios which make it too difficult for a senior to live on their own. When this is the case, an assisted living facility can help an older adult live safely and happy. Landmark Senior Living is one assisted living facility that can provide residents with the health care that they deserve all while giving them a fun and stimulating environment to live in.