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Everyday travel enables older adults living in rural areas to maintain their lives and to express important aspects of their identities

Graham H, Bell S, Flemming K, Sowden A, White P, Wright K. The experiences of everyday travel for older people in rural areas: A systematic review of UK qualitative studies Journal of Transport & Health. 2018; 11: 141-152.

Review question

•    What are the experiences of everyday travel for older adults in rural areas?

Background

      Older adults make up a larger proportion of the rural population and rely more heavily on its transport system than younger age groups.

      While older adults appreciate the beauty and neighbourliness of rural life, everyday travel can be a challenge.

      Previous research indicated that older adults were found to be less likely to drive, more likely to have mobility limitations, and more likely to report problems with accessing essential services.

      This systematic review explored the experiences of everyday travel for older adults in rural areas, specifically in the context of the United Kingdom.

How the review was done

      A comprehensive literature search was conducted in a variety of research databases, including MEDLINE, CINAHL Plus, Scopus, AgeInfo, and Transport Research International Documentation.

      The researchers also checked references in potentially-relevant systematic reviews, hand-searched key journals, and sought advice from experts in the field.

      The search was restricted to peer-reviewed English-language articles published between 1998 and 2017.

      A total of 520 articles were retrieved for analysis, 12 of which were included in the systematic review.

      This study was funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Policy Research Programme in the United Kingdom. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

What the researchers found

      Three inter-connected themes were identified in the research literature. The first theme related to the experience of living with an inadequate transport system. The second and third themes highlighted the practical importance of everyday travel in enabling older adults to maintain their lives and its symbolic importance in affirming their identities. The impact of travel on health and wellbeing ran across all three themes.

      The inadequacies of the rural transport system provided the context in which older adults’ experiences of everyday travel were set. Various system components were discussed in the included studies, including walking, local bus services, community transport, hospital transport, taxis, and lifts from family members and friends.

      While local bus services were valued by some older adults, there was a widespread perception that the bus did not provide a reliable and accessible mode of transportation. Community bus services were highly valued by users but was associated with social stigma among non-users.

      The car was widely regarded as the standard mode of transportation, with other modes seen to have inadequacies (inadequacies that were avoided when owning and driving a car). The car enabled access to a wider range of activities that gave pleasure and meaning to older adults’ lives.

Conclusion

      Research findings highlighted the essential contribution that everyday travel – whether by car, public transport or on foot – makes to the lives of older adults.

      Everyday travel not only facilitate access to goods and services, it enables older adults to enjoy their lives and express important aspects of their identity.



Related Topics


Glossary

Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

Related Web Resources

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    This report can be used as a guide for seniors who are looking for alternative transportation methods and their loved ones who are exploring options such as walking, taxis, public transit and volunteer driver programs. Recommendations for the future of accessible transportation are also provided.
DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

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