Evidence Summary

What is an Evidence Summary?

Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on

Got It, Hide this
  • Rating:

Older women and adults over the age of 75 are the most likely to have unmet travel needs

Carlo L, Tight M, Burrow M, et al.  The unmet travel needs of the older population: A review of the literature  Journal of Transport Reviews. 2017; 37(4), 488-506.

Review question

Do the unmet travel needs of older adults contribute to an overall decline in their perceived mobility as they age?


Unmet travel needs, defined as mobility that is unfulfilled due to the inability to accomplish needed or desired journeys and activities, deters the older population from travelling with ease. Often a lack of transportation options or unfriendly environments can prevent older adults from out-of-home activities.

Evidence shows that the lifestyle patterns of the older population tend to include more free time for leisure activities such as travel. However, studies looking at unmet travel needs for the older population that discuss demand, preference and satisfaction of travel fail to address the intricacy of mobility for the older populations specifically.

This review aimed to highlight the unmet travel needs of the older population specifically, to inform planners and policymakers about how to enable optimal mobility for older adults, particularly with the aging baby-boom generation.

How the review was done

A detailed search of a number of electronic databases for studies published from 2000 to 2017 was conducted. Studies that focused on unmet travel needs, mobility, out-of-home mobility needs and older and elderly people were included in the review.

A total of 1,710 studies were identified in searches, and 29 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

This review was funded by the University of Birmingham, College of Engineering and Physical Science.

What the researchers found

The studies included in the review found that at least one-third of the older population reported having unmet travel needs, whether caused by transportation, health, demographic or environmental-related factors.

The most commonly reported challenge for older adults during travel was health-related, such as impaired mobility that had an impact on their ability to board different means of transportation.

Access to appropriate, private modes of transportation, such as a car, greatly improved the quality of life of the older population, due to an increased sense of freedom and societal inclusion. This was particularly relevant in suburban and rural contexts. More flexible modes of transport, such as a dial-a-ride service also presented an effective alternative for the older population.

Among the older population, women and adults over the age of 75 were the most likely to have unmet travel needs.


As the baby-boom generation ages, the frequency of unmet travel needs is increasing as mobility challenges for the older population rise. This review highlights the health, transportation and demographic factors experienced during travel among the older population, and in doing so, suggests areas for improvement.

Further investigation of the quality of the environment surrounding transportation means, such as accessible parking facilities, was recommended as a mobility incentive for the older population.

Related Topics

Related Web Resources

  • Older adults advised to walk more briskly

    Walking more quickly may help you stay healthy as you age. Even just going for a brisk ten minute walk every day might improve your overall health. A brisk walk means that you will feel warm and be breathing a little faster than normal.
  • Rural and Tribal Elder Justice Resource Guide

    The United States Department of Justice
    Tribal and rural lands are home to many older adults. In the United States, the Department of Justice and Department of Agriculture teamed up to address issues of elder abuse in rural and tribal areas. This resource contains information about elder abuse and links to useful external resources for tribal elders and rural older adults. Read this resource to learn more.
  • Inspiring Wellness: Your Guide to Active Aging in Manitoba

    Active Aging in Manitoba
    This resource can help older adults in Manitoba connect with services and events supporting active aging. The theme of this resource is "Inspiring Wellness". Read this guide to learn about different activities and services available to you in your community.
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).

Register for free access to all Professional content

Want the latest in aging research? Sign up for our email alerts.

Support for the Portal is largely provided by the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative. AGE-WELL is a contributing partner. Help us to continue to provide direct and easy access to evidence-based information on health and social conditions to help you stay healthy, active and engaged as you grow older. Donate Today.

© 2012 - 2020 McMaster University | 1280 Main Street West | Hamilton, Ontario L8S4L8 | +1 905-525-9140 | Terms Of Use