Transportation, Quality of Life, and Older Adults

TitleTransportation, Quality of Life, and Older Adults
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsWachs, M, Blumenberg, E, Schouten, A, King, HR
Series TitleUC Office of the President: ITS Reports
Document NumberUC-ITS-2020-42
InstitutionInstitute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
CityLos Angeles, CA
KeywordsCalifornia, transportation planning, travel behavior

Driving rates decline with age as vision, health, and cognitive ability cause some older adults to give up driving.
Many older adults first gradually limit their driving as they age and later cease driving. Using data from the
Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which surveys 22,000 older Americans every two years, we modeled the
extent to which older drivers limit and stop driving. The data are longitudinal, allowing analysis of changes in
driving and residential location as well as cohort effects that could not be studied using standard, cross-sectional
survey data that only allow comparisons of different people at one point in time. The analysis shows that
decisions to limit and eventually stop driving vary in statistically significant ways with sex, age, and health
conditions. These relationships also differ by birth cohort. More recent cohorts are less likely to stop and limit
driving than older ones. To analyze the relationship between residential location and driving behavior, we linked
the HRS data to census-tract level data from the US Census and a categorization of community types. We
found that residential density and other urban built environment features are associated with changes in driving
and vehicle ownership. HRS survey participants showed a greater propensity to reduce or give up driving if they
resided in denser, more diverse, transit-oriented neighborhoods. People who prefer non-automotive modes of
transportation may have been more likely than others to self-select into walkable and transit-rich areas. The
findings should inform California’s strategic planning for aging and its community development policies. In
addition to informing planning for the next generation of older Californians, this study demonstrated the utility of
longitudinal information and models for the understanding of older populations and their travel.

Citation Key11548