Reducing Old-Age Social Exclusion by Improved Mobility
Nominated for The Planning for Sustainable Land Use and Transport Award
Karel Schmeidler, University of Technology, Institute of Forensic Engineering, Lidia Zakowska, Technical University, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Department of Transport
Our paper Reducing Old-Age Social Exclusion by Improvement of mobility and traffic safety describes an attempt to improve mobility of elderly and thus make better all the conditions for life and reduce their social exclusion.
European population is ageing. Due to demographic changes older and disabled people represent a significant and permanently fast growing part of European population. Old-Age Social exclusion has negative impact on all facets of seniors’ life. It brings barriers and limitations to social, political, economic and cultural life, limits access to medical care, sports and healthy life. Our target is inclusion of elderly. Population ageing and low consideration of seniors’ needs pose major challenges to meeting this target, emphasising the necessity to tackle all facets of old-age exclusion. While risks of exclusion of older people are widening and deepening there has not been done much for technical and organisational improvements that offer new solutions.
European policy regarding the elderly has to maintain or increase their mobility. This is a central element of their healthy life and consequent integration in society. Our research proved that senior citizens want to stay autonomous and independent as far as possible. Without the possibility to maintain mobility, senior citizens cannot lead an independent life, with many other problems such as social isolation and health problems as a consequence. The biggest obstacle is seen old age social exclusion, ageism in the society, ignorance and misunderstanding by authorities.
Thanks to our research, there has been a progressive increase over the past decade in the social awareness of the requirements for older and disabled people throughout the Czech Republic, Poland and other parts of the Central Europe. This progression has moved from making provision for older and disabled people on a welfare-oriented basis, towards increasingly equal access to all facilities as a matter of human rights. Improving access to any form of safe mobility and travel provides additional social, as well as economic benefits at personal, governmental and commercial levels. It is evident that the access to mobility, improved accessibility to natural and cultural environment is to some extend decisive related to social inclusion, cultural and health factors. Yet, it is possible to effectively lessen bad health status and thus contribute to quality of life in our countries by carefully influencing transport and related urban and transport environment.
In Central Europe owning and utilizing of a car is one of the best remedies against a diminishing of cruising radius in old age and a comfortable mean to sustain autonomy and independence of living as well as social relations. Physical handicaps and limits of the elderly could be compensated today by sophisticated technical solutions. Promotion of specialised driver-assistance systems in the cars and advancement of the demand for age relevant cars with high-tech optimisation should be the remedy; It is expected that these technical means will be used to a far greater degree in the future for the purposes of preventing road accidents (active safety) and to reduce the impact of the road accidents that do occur (passive safety) to senior citizens. The use of ITS should help in preventing accidents. Technical development increasing the safety of vehicles for older passengers need not be the privilege of a few. It will be necessary to co-operate with manufacturers to ensure that technical innovations are available to all and attainable as soon as possible for a wide range of new vehicles. The possibilities for equipping older vehicles already on the roads with new technical means of prevention should also be investigated.
With changing attitudes and conditions the desire to travel for services, business and leisure represents a potential major new source of ideas for IVIS (In Vehicle Information Systems) and ADAS (Advanced Drivers Assistance Systems) designers and producers.
We had been searching the old age social exclusion in relation to mobility for two decades. Our results highlight the possibilities for improvement of quality of life by increasing of mobility and reduction of mobility barriers. Senior drivers represent a potential major new source of ideas for IVIS and ADAS designers and producers. The ITS development including IVIS and ADAS designed to reduce traffic accidents and to support elderly drivers in a suitable and user-oriented way may be appropriate solution. European policy regarding the elderly aims at maintaining their independence and mobility. This is a central element of their integration in society. Reducing the number of people at risk of social exclusion is a headline target of the Europe 2020 strategy and our mobility and accessibility research.
Association for European Transport