Have you been driving on Route 123 or 140 in Norton lately behind a car going 25 miles an hour, while the posted speed limit is 35 or 40 miles an hour? Nothing you do to get the drivers attention – from tooting your horn to flashing your lights – can get them to go faster.
When you do get an opportunity to pass or they turn into Roche Brothers, you notice that the driver is elderly.
Muttering under your breath, wondering why they are out there driving, you never stop to think this might be the only way they can get to their doctor appointments, do their errands, or just get out to socialize. Why? Because this is what they always do – get in their cars and go. Out here they live in an area with limited public transportation. GATRA (Greater Attleboro Transportation Regional Transit Authority) works for some but it is not always the best or most convenient solution.
In a recent news release, entitled Most Aging Baby Boomers in Boston Will Face Poor Mobility Options, Elizabeth Weyant, staff attorney of Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG), summarizes a new report from Transportation for America. This report, Aging in Place, Stuck Without Options, shows that by 2015, 45% of seniors in the greater Boston area will have poor access to public transportation. Between 2000 and 2015, the Boston metro area will have experienced a 30 percent increase in seniors with poor access to transit.
Today we hear about more and more auto accidents involving elderly drivers, and the big concern is why they are driving. But without a dependable public transportation system, this growing segment of the population will be isolated if they don't drive. According to this report, seniors age 65 and older who no longer drive make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor, 59 percent fewer trips to shop or eat out, and 65 percent fewer trips to visit friends and family.
We all need to ask ourselves if are we prepared to absorb the burden of providing seniors with regular, dependable transportation either privately or through our tax dollars. Attorney Weyant suggests, “We need to make sure that seniors aren’t stranded,” and “Older Americans should remain mobile, active, and independent. That simply requires better alternatives to driving.” This is a problem that is growing each and every day.
Claire LeSage, is the owner of WITTZ END, a Relocation Concierge Service based in Norton (www.atwittzend.com). Claire works with families who are frazzled with downsizing and moving; and want help with what needs to be done so they can move smoothly on with their life.