What the Community Survey Data Says about Our Mobility
In July, I began reporting in this column on the results of the community survey in which many of you participated conducted by the grassroots all-volunteer group, Age-Friendly Communities of the Lower Kennebec. The initial analysis shows the survey data from our 1,000 respondents clustering around the three themes of Our Homes (in last month’s column), Our Mobility – which is our topic here, and Our Social Connections, which we will get to next month.
The purpose of this survey work is to gain information which can be used to help our region become more “livable for a lifetime”, across the 6 communities of Arrowsic, Bath, Georgetown, Phippsburg, West Bath and Woolwich. Special thanks to Karin Sadler for her work analyzing the data about Our Mobility which is discussed here.
An older adult’s mobility, or ability to get around, can be affected by many factors such as health, finances, what kind of transportation is available and whether key elements of infrastructure exist in the community that support mobility like benches or sidewalks. This is what we learned about whether residents were experiencing challenges with mobility here.
In response to the statement “It would be easy to find a ride”, about 17% agreed, 45% did not know or were neutral, and 38% disagreed. When asked a multiple-choice question “How do you get around?” 91% said they drive themselves. 16% walk to get around, 14% are taken by a partner/spouse, 7% ride with a family member or friend, 6% ride a bike, and 6% use taxis or buses.
Overall, about 15% of the survey respondents said it is hard to get places. When we asked why, 44% cited a lack of easy transportation options, for 35% it was lack of money, impaired ability to walk (32%) and poor vision/hearing (12%). Though 3/4ths did have family or friends they could ask for help, 22% dislike asking for a ride and 11% don’t like to go out alone.
On the physical front, about 1/3 reported a chronic disability affecting themselves or a partner, and 35% had concerns about falling. While only 5% have participated in a fall prevention class, many were undertaking walking and exercise as a fall preventative strategy.
The survey also asked for comments about what would make our community more age-friendly; and mobility related responses centered on community infrastructure – having enough benches, handicapped parking, public restrooms and winter snow clearance on sidewalks. When asked “what is important to you”, leading the list were affordable and convenient transportation options; well-lit safe roads for walkers, bikers and drivers; and sidewalks or wide shoulders that encourage walking.
In Summary, key take-aways were that residents rely on their ability to drive and their personal vehicles.
They are concerned about losing their independence, especially if they experience emerging disability. Many lack information about resources that do exist and how to use them. You are welcome to join us as we start planning and working on some of the opportunities that this information offers to make our communities more livable!