The use of transportation by seniors in Canada
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Melissa Sleightholm, Jean-Michel Billette, Claude Normandin and Nancy Hofmann, Health Statistics Division
A focus on the use of transportation by older Canadians has important implications because of the large number of baby boomers that will soon be turning 65. In 2009, senior Canadians, aged 65 and older, made up 14% of the Canadian population. In 2036, this proportion is projected to increase to between 23% and 25%. 25
The increasing number of seniors means that their decisions regarding transportation may have potential environmental impact. This article focuses on transportation used by senior Canadians in relation to the following factors: sex, marital status, chronic conditions, and perception of health.
What you should know about this study
This study is based on data from the 2009 Canadian Community Health Survey – Healthy Aging, conducted as part of the Canadian Community Health Survey program. The survey collects information on Canadians aged 45 and older about the factors, influences, and processes that contribute to healthy aging through a multidisciplinary approach focusing on health, social, and economic determinants.
Data were collected from December 2008 to November 2009 from Canadians living in private households within the ten provinces. Excluded were people living in the three territories, those living on Indian Reserves/Crown lands, full-time members of the Armed Forces, residents of certain remote regions and persons who were institutionalized. The survey includes only those who live in private households in the community.
Respondents were asked in general what was their most common form of transportation in the last month. Options included passenger in a motor vehicle; taxi; public transportation such as bus, rapid transit, subway, or train; accessible transit such as Para Transpo; cycling; walking; and drive a motor vehicle. Only those seniors who used a form of transportation were included in this analysis.
Chronic conditions that could be reported in this survey included: asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, back problems, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, intestinal/stomach ulcers, effects of stroke, urinary incontinence, bowel disorder, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, cataracts, glaucoma, thyroid condition, mood disorder, anxiety disorder, and other unspecified conditions.
Most common form of transportation used by seniors
Results from the Canadian Community Health Survey – Healthy Aging found that in 2009 the most common form of transportation used by seniors was a motor vehicle. Nine in ten (90%) seniors with a valid driver's licence had driven at least once a week during the month preceding the interview.
Six in ten (60%) seniors reported that driving a motor vehicle was their most common form of transportation in 2009. Being a passenger in a motor vehicle was the next most common form of transportation, reported by 28% of seniors. About 6% of seniors used public transportation and 3% of seniors walked as their most common form of transportation (Chart 5).
Factors that impact transportation use by seniors
A number of factors were associated with the form of transportation used by seniors including sex, marital status, chronic conditions, and health perception. Senior men were more likely to drive than senior women. In contrast, senior women were more likely to be passengers, use public transportation, or walk than senior men.
The largest difference in transportation use between the sexes was the percentage of seniors that drove. Seventy-nine percent of senior men drove, compared to 44% of senior women (Table 3).
Marital status also had a relationship with the form of transportation used by seniors. Those who were married were more likely to drive and less likely to use public transportation or to walk as compared to other marital statuses. 26
Nearly two thirds (65%) of married seniors drove, compared to less than half (47%) of widowed seniors. Almost one in five single seniors (19%) used public transportation compared to only 3% of married seniors. Additionally, widowed seniors were more likely than married seniors to be passengers; while married seniors were more likely to be passengers than separated, divorced or single seniors (Table 3).
The likelihood of driving also appeared to be related to the number of chronic conditions reported by seniors. Seniors with three or more chronic conditions were less likely to drive and more likely to be passengers than seniors with no chronic conditions. For example, 54% of seniors with three or more chronic conditions drove, compared to 67% of seniors with no chronic conditions (Table 3).
The number of chronic conditions however did not have a significant association with using public transportation or walking. Seniors with three or more chronic conditions were just as likely to use public transportation or walk as seniors with no chronic conditions.
Canadian seniors were asked to report on the general condition of their health. Seniors who indicated they had "fair" or "poor" health were less likely to drive and more likely to be passengers and use public transportation than seniors with "excellent" or "very good" health. For example, slightly more than two thirds (68%) of seniors who perceived their health to be "excellent" or "very good" drove, however, this decreased to 47% of seniors who rated their health as "fair" or "poor" (Table 3).
Although walking was a relatively uncommon mode of transportation for seniors, those who rated their health as "excellent or "very good" were more likely to walk (4%) than those who rated their health as "fair" or "poor" (2%) (Table 3).
Seniors compared to Canadian workers aged 15 and older
The 2006 Census of Population collected data on the forms of transportation used by workers. This refers to the main means Canadians aged 15 and older that worked outside of their homes used to travel between their home and their place of work. In comparison, the Canadian Community Health Survey did not ask specifically about commuting.
In 2006, 11% of workers used public transportation and 6% walked. 27 In comparison, 6% of seniors used public transportation and 3% walked in 2009.
Seventy-two percent of workers and 60% of seniors reported driving as their main mode of transportation. Seniors were more likely to be passengers in a vehicle than workers—8% of workers were passengers compared to 28% of seniors. 28