Older Australians rely heavily on car use (whether self-driven or as a passenger) to move around their communities. Cars are generally perceived as the most convenient mode of transport providing freedom of movement within their community. Many had yet to consider how they would engage with their community if they could no longer drive or be driven. While some felt they would simply adapt if they could no longer drive, stating that they would either walk or rely on family/friends, others preferred not to think about this possibility.
What would it be like if you could no longer drive?
“If I didn’t have my licence I would be lost..I love driving.” (Participant 48, female, 59 years)
“What would I do without a car; everywhere I go I need it; I use it.” (Participant 33, female, 72)
"The biggest problem older people have in terms of mobility and the liveability, if you like, in their community, is the lack of appropriate transport when they need it. But when you have the older people who‘s licence is taken, you add all the other losses in their life and then hit them with taking their licence away and removing that independence, especially men, that’s a hell of a blow and that exacerbates the associated problems with isolation." (Participant 31, male, 76 years)
While there was no available public transport option in the rural locality and minimal options in the regional locality, both high density and suburban participants live within areas where public transport networks exist. Despite this, the anxiety about the idea of no longer being able to drive was evident among residents in each sample group (high density, suburban, regional and rural).
The graphs below highlight the high use of personal cars during the tracking week. On average, urban participants used bicycles and public transport more frequently than the rural or regional participants. However, the car remains the dominant choice of transport regardless of locality.
Map: Movements of two participants over a one-week period – each living in suburban Brisbane (Please note that one drives to all destinations while the other uses a variety of transport modes). Click on image to enlarge.
The first map shows a heavy reliance on driving or being driven. The second map shows that while the use of public transport and walking is chosen by some, car use is still the preferred option when longer distance travel is required.
For urban participants, it appeared that the main reason they chose to drive rather than use public transport was that they simply loved their cars; they felt driving was the most convenient mode of transport and identified a number of issues with the public transport in Brisbane and Toowoomba:
“You have to know when this bus goes. I don't have a computer, so how do I find out? I have got a bus [time]table [but].. these bus [time]tables are all out of kilter.” (Participant 22, male, 69 years)
“I used to walk around the corner and get the bus.. do our shopping, then we would get a taxi home because we had all our groceries and we didn’t want to lob it on the bus.” (Participant 27, female, 68 years)
“I don't like people coming into my personal space.“ (Participant 5, male, 69 years)
With a lack of public transport options in the regional and rural localities, taxis were the only alternative; however, some felt they were simply too expensive.
“It’s expensive stuff, very expensive stuff. But then, I mean, okay, older women, older men, they get their taxi vouchers, get 50 percent off there, but even that’s expensive, especially if you’re on a pension." (Participant 31, male, 76 years)
Overall, the data presented both positive and negative attributes to public transport:
Differing public transport options were available within our study communities and so the specific responses above are location specific.