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Newer roads for older folks.

By 2025, a quarter of Americans will be over age 65. Beyond the obvious Medicare and Social Security concerns, this fact is also causing challenges for states struggling to meet the transportation needs of older citizens. A recent report from AARP highlights the need to start planning transportation systems that provide options for those without cars or the ability to drive. This issue affects more than just older citizens, as one-third of all Americans don't have consistent access to a car. AARP found that current sidewalks, public transit and bike routes are difficult for many older Americans to use.

"Complete streets" policies try to ensure the needs of all users--pedestrians, bicyclists, seniors, children, transit users--when planning the transportation system. For older people this can mean building pedestrian medians to provide a safe stopping place in the middle of a wide road; installing pedestrian countdown signals that show how much time is left to cross; and ensuring transit systems have street-level access to eliminate the need to climb steps.

California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia have complete streets policies. And Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas, Washington and West Virginia have considered bills to strengthen or adopt such policies this year. Yet even in states with these policies, explicit attention to issues affecting seniors is often lacking, says AARP. A nationwide survey of transportation planners found that only about one-third have started integrating the needs of older users.

Many of these transportation concerns go along with conversations to create "livable communities," which can help older Americans continue living independently by having medical, retail and governmental services available within walking distance or a bus ride.

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Publication:State Legislatures
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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