Public transport helps seniors get social

New research into the impact of free public transport on older people has found a growing number of seniors are using public transport to socialise more.

The University of Adelaide has found Adelaide’s seniors are making an average of 150,000 rides on public transport every week, with the provision of  free public transport to seniors during off-peak times playing a major role in their independence and wellbeing.

Study leader Dr Helen Feist, acting director of the Australian Population & Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, said while most activities of daily living – such as shopping and paying the bills – were being conducted in the local neighbourhood, many seniors were using public transport for social activities.

“The results of our study are a resounding vote of support for the provision of free public transport to Seniors Card holders, and helps us to better understand what role this transport plays in their lives,” Dr Feist said.

“Public transport is often used for other life-enriching activities, such as volunteering, or civic and social engagements, going to the movies, visiting friends, or travelling to the city for a day out,” Dr Feist said.

“On average, we found that Seniors Card holders are making more than 150,000 rides on public transport in the Adelaide metropolitan area every week. This represents an extraordinary number of civic, social and community engagement opportunities for older people.

“It means that our public transport system is being well utilised during off-peak periods.”

Dr Feist said improved mobility provided older people with a sense of independence and control.

“It gives them autonomy, as well as feelings of active citizenship and belonging. These issues are critical to people’s wellbeing in later life.

“As Australia’s population ages, the ability to engage independently with the community through adequate and reliable transport is becoming more imperative,” she said.

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