Older Canadians on the Move
The Expert Panel on the Transportation Needs of an Aging Population
Long lineups, poor signage, and garbled announcements over a loudspeaker can be a nuisance for any traveller. But for older adults, they can present significant roadblocks in their journey, whether taking a cross-country trip by train, or a bus ride to an appointment. Demand for an inclusive transportation system that meets the unique and varied needs of this growing demographic is only going to increase. In 2016, one in six people in Canada was 65 or older. That number is expected to climb to one in four by 2036.
Recognizing the importance of ensuring the Canadian transportation system meets the needs of older adults, the Minister of Transport, on behalf of Transport Canada, asked the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) to provide an evidence-informed and authoritative assessment on the state of knowledge on the role of technology and innovation in improving the accessibility of the federal transportation system for older adults.
To address the charge, the CCA assembled a multidisciplinary, multisectoral panel of experts with a range of expertise, experience, and demonstrated leadership in engineering, gerontology, geriatric medicine, transportation policy, industry, and innovative technologies.
How can technology and innovation help the Canadian transportation system (under the legislative authority of Parliament) adapt to the needs of an aging population?
Older Canadians on the Move is a comprehensive, high-quality, expert panel study that examines all modes of transportation, including but not limited to those under federal jurisdiction such as intercity buses, ferries, trains and planes. The report is Canadian-specific, taking into account the country’s unique geography, vast size, low population density, and jurisdictional division of transportation control. Unlike other reports that focus on disability, this report examines the transportation needs that accompany normal changes associated with aging and focuses on older adults in general, rather than specific chronological ages or disabilities. Importantly, the Panel used a “door-through-door” approach when examining the issues, focusing on integrated seamless movement across the transportation network that would benefit everyone, regardless of background, age, or ability.
Importantly, the Panel concludes that new technological innovations are not the only solutions to make travel obstacle-free; sometimes the best solutions are simple, inexpensive, and already exist. The report points out that increased customer service personnel, inclusivity training, designated lineups, and ample seating in stations and terminals are some simple initiatives that could have a significant impact. New technologies or innovative adaptations such as flat-plate baggage claim devices and apps that support wayfinding are also explored as options for improving the travel experience. The entire report is built upon the premise of the door-through-door journey, drawing on the concept of a multimodal and national system that considers how older travellers in Canada will navigate their journey, from planning the trip to arriving at their chosen destination.
The Panel identified three pathways to help facilitate door-through-door journeys for older adults and improve the inclusivity of the Canadian transportation system: advancing human and social resources; advancing technology and infrastructure; and advancing policy. Each pathway has an important research and development and innovation component, whether it be through the development of new technologies or the testing and implementation of research-driven solutions in real-world settings. The Panel focused on user-centred approaches to R&D and innovation. For example, crafting transportation regulations collaboratively using a multisectoral committee that includes older adults would foster trust and respect among stakeholders.