Image: Gary L Hider / AdobeStock

Image: Gary L Hider / AdobeStock

Toward Age-Friendly Communities: Planning for Mobilities of Care


It is estimated that seniors will make up approximately one fifth of the UK population by 2030. Promoting the wellbeing of this growing ageing population is a pressing contemporary issue, and a key factor relating to older adults' quality of life is their mobility. Not only is mobility a basic human need associated with independence, health, and wellbeing, but it is also important for older adults wishing to "age in place": to remain living in their homes or their communities with some level of independence, rather than in residential care. To successfully age in place, older adults need to remain mobile to stay active, to access desired people and places, to meet their daily needs, and to participate in social life.

This research project on older adults' mobility focuses on an under-studied type of travel with important equity considerations: mobilities of care. Mobilities of care comprise all travel needed to fulfil one's or one's dependents' basic needs, such as travel to grocery stores, pharmacies, and doctor's appointments. Though mobilities of care are essential if older adults are to retain a high quality of life as they age, they are under-quantified, undervalued, and rendered invisible in transportation planning and research. For instance, the UK National Travel Survey does not report directly on mobilities of care. However, by combining shopping, escort, and personal business trips, we see that mobilities of care comprise a far greater number of trips than those for commuting purposes: specifically, 43.51% of all trips in the UK are mobilities of care while only 14.60% are for commuting purposes. Mobilities of care make up an even higher proportion of older adults' travel: 53.81% of all trips made by UK residents 60 years old or older comprise mobilities of care. Because older adults both complete a greater proportion of care trips and are the fastest growing segment of the population, this understudied travel will be even more significant in the coming years as the population continues to age.

Further, many older adults rely on others for their mobilities of care, whether it be through informal networks (e.g. getting rides or grocery deliveries from friends or family members), or formal services (e.g. community transport, programs run through hospitals, etc.). Therefore, this research project will not just focus on the lived experience of older adults' mobilities of care, but the institutional practices that shape mobilities of care. The project's objectives are two-fold. Firstly, this research will uncover the challenges and barriers older adults in Oxfordshire face completing mobilities of care, as well as how these experiences vary across social variables and the rural-urban continuum. Secondly, this project will outline how older adults' mobilities of care are shaped by informal networks and formal services. Anticipated deliverables include multiple publications in academic journals and reports distributed to non-academic partners. Further, this research aims to identify policy interventions that support older adults' mobility and encourage "aging in place", thereby shedding light not only on how to build equitable and inclusive transportation systems, but also age-friendly communities.

Further Information

For more information on this research project please contact Dr Léa Ravensbergen.

In brief


2022 - 2023


Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada

TSU Principal Investigators

Dr Léa Ravensbergen
Prof Tim Schwanen


Dr Léa Ravensbergen