Designing Places for Cars Isolates Older Americans

America can be a hostile place for people who don’t drive, and the difficulty is obviously compounded for people who can’t drive because of physical limitations. Even for someone in peak physical condition, crossing suburban arterial roads, waiting for infrequent buses, and traversing enormous parking lots can be unpleasant at best and dangerous at worst.

Price says we don't just need better transit to make our communities hospitable to the elderly, we need walkable destinations as well. Image: Strong Towns

Andrew Price at Network blog Strong Towns writes today about how car-oriented places undermine the wellbeing of millions of elderly Americans:

Many of the elderly cannot (or should not) drive. Unlike children, it is not a phase that they will eventually grow out of. Are we to throw them into a retirement home, just because they are no longer able to drive and maintain their independence? Should we keep forcing them to drive, when we know that in their advanced age, their vision, judgment, and alertness is not what it use to be? Should we impose the burden of carting them around to their children?

In my opinion, all of those are cruel and humiliating options, yet they remain our only options, as long as we keep prioritizing the automobile in the way we design and build our environments.

Next time you go to label a community as being ‘family oriented’ — do not just think about the parents or the recently retired that are able to depend on an automobile at a moment’s notice. Ask yourself, would your 13 year old kid or elderly granny on a walker have their freedom, and be happy there?

We cannot ignore the problem, because we will all be elderly one day.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Milwaukee Rising shares a revealing story about why a local elected official won’t challenge Wisconsin DOT’s plan to expand a highway in city neighborhoods. Better Institutions points out that longer commutes help justify more expensive cars, a double financial whammy. And Copenhagenize looks back in time at Copenhagen’s 1897 “Cycle Track Association.”