Innovation in Transportation for Seniors: The Elements

The Community Transportation Association (CTAA) and the Beverly Foundation of the United States brought forth a quote in their report from rural America: “Many of our innovations are by necessity, not by design.” Being driven by necessity is, unfortunately, a hard and cold fact for innovations in general. Only at the brink of when we are about to run out of a resource are our major leaders interested in bringing something new forward. Concerning transportation — and particularly in rural areas — it is indeed a necessity to consider the elderly population.

A summary of CTAA’s and Beverly Foundation’s findings [1]:

(1) The out-migration of the younger population,
and the in-migration and aging-in-place of the older
population, has resulted in an increase in the
population that is less mobile and less able to drive
or navigate transportation services.

(2) Many seniors, especially those who are frail and
in need of assistance, depend on community
transportation services to get to both life sustaining
and life enriching activities.

(3) Transportation services face numerous
operational and financial challenges in meeting the
transportation needs of seniors.

(4) Transportation services generally address
everyday challenges such as scheduling with everyday
solutions such as technology.

(5) In addition to everyday solutions, many
transportation services successfully introduce new
or novel changes from the standard way of doing
things. Such changes generally are described as
innovations.

According to this source, the Keys to Innovation (beyond leadership) include A Point of Origin (i.e. Why is this innovation needed? In this case, transportation may be forced to shut down if nothing is done due to a financial crisis with driver salaries, etc.), An Idea Factory (i.e. Where innovations are created. For example, a volunteer driving program), People Markers (i.e. The people define the innovation. For example, riders recruit drivers and drivers recruit riders), and last but not least, a Receptive Culture (i.e. The status of the society’s willingness for change.)

As the decline of infrastructure was apparent in rural America — and the rate with which the elderly population rose higher than when compared to urban America (also considering the differential between the youth leaving vs. the older staying) — the elderly in these areas have been having a challenge. Limitations include the lack of novel treatments and care, destination travel (with the factor of time — especially for long medical trips), and social isolation. But despite these enormous challenges, the Beverly Foundation and CTAA claimed that rural America is “doing a lot with a little,” so to speak.

References

1. http://www.ctaa.org/webmodules/webarticles/articlefiles/Senior_Rural_Innovations.pdf

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About Adrian Levitsky

Adrian is a Research Technician and Doctoral Student at Karolinska Institutet's ClinTRID department for Inflammatory (Autoimmune) Disease research. He is a blogger for the Silverevolution initiative by ACCESS Health International. He defended his Masters thesis in Global Health at Karolinska and worked together with the CAMbrella project's Swedish team (http://www.cambrella.eu/home.php) in analyzing global key stakeholders of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Traditional Medicine (TM). He has an avid interest in research. Particularly, he wishes to research CAM/TM and promulgate an evidence base for the potential effectiveness of integrative care -- as this communication still is lacking globally. Adrian has a background starting as a pilot at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which later evolved to studying Human Factors Psychology with a drive to understand how man and machine work together. This field often focuses heavily on research and involves testing available theories or finding new solutions to prevent work-related injuries, reduce stress, and emphasize usability/ergonomics. Teaching English in South Korea made him realize the need for innovation and imagination for all school curricula in order to solve today’s dilemmas.

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