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People who live alone are particularly affected by limited access to transportation

One of the things that contribute to the well-being of seniors, aside from their health, their independence and their financial security, is the opportunity to socialize and have meaningful contact with others. The risk of isolation is probably greater for those who live alone than for those who live with their spouse or other people. And the risk of social isolation is probably even higher when access to transportation is limited, which may make it more difficult to visit friends or take part in social activities.1

The data from the General Social Survey on time use provide some support for this idea. Sixty-one percent of seniors who lived alone but had a vehicle engaged in some kind of social activity on the reference day (e.g., visiting someone else’s home, having a visitor at their home, or going to a restaurant with another person). In contrast, only 47% of those who only had access to public transportation and 42% of those who had no access to a vehicle or to public transportation had engaged in that kind of social activity.

More generally, the proportion of people who had no access to a vehicle or public transportation and spent the whole of the previous day alone was higher than the proportion of people who had a driver’s licence. People who have more limited access to transportation may have a lower tendency to want many social relationships than those who have a licence.

Nevertheless, it is quite plausible to conclude that many seniors were limited in their social activities because of their problem with access to transportation. The difference in social activity between seniors who lived alone and had access to a private vehicle and other seniors remained significant, even when other factors in a statistical model were controlled for (results not presented here), such as size of social network, age, income, education and limitations on activities related to leisure and travel.

Note

  1. Glasgow, N. and R. M. Blakely. 2000. “Older Nonmetropolitan residents’ evaluations of their transportation arrangements,” The Journal of Applied Gerontology 19 (1): 95-116; Fox, M. and B. Gooding. 1998. “Physical Mobility and social integration: their relationship to the well-being of older Canadians” Canadian Journal on Aging, Vol. 17, No. 4, p. 372-383.

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