Five: Beyond transport: understanding the role of mobilities in connecting rural elders in civic society

Transport policy for rural elders has traditionally focussed on deficits in access to ‘subsistence’ needs, such as food and healthcare. The chapter considers the limitations of the past approach for wellbeing, presenting the case for a holistic perspective: the continuum of mobilities (literal, virtual, potential and imaginative). Each is regarded as having different importance for quality of life, with individuals drawing variously on the different types at different lifecourse stages. The chapter applies the continuum towards understanding some key rural transport policy dilemmas for elders, relating to social exclusion and car dependence. It is concluded that, for the majority of rural elders, a combination of walking and car use underpin mobility and connectivity, but public transport plays an important secondary role and virtual mobility is of growing importance. For the minority that reports major difficulties in achieving the levels of mobility they desire, the absence of car access is one important factor. Looking to the future, the likely rise of virtual mobility to address subsistence needs will place greater emphasis on social connectivity as a motivation for maintaining physical activity. The findings concerning imaginative mobility suggest both an important role for design in producing legible environments and a therapeutic role.

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