Nine of 10 over-50s shun public transport, Tilda study reveals
Just one in 10 older people rely on public transport to get around, research on Ireland's ageing population has revealed.
The study found a third of free travel pass-holders in Greater Dublin use state-run bus and rail services while the figure falls to 10% in other towns and cities and to as low as 3% for people in rural area.
The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda), based at Trinity College, warned of serious levels of dissatisfaction with public transport with mo re than half of the over-50s surveyed rating the options in their area as poor or very poor.
Their biggest complaints were about limited bus routes or threatened closure of existing routes, inconvenient schedules and low frequency of services.
The Tilda report warned that for a substantial proportion of older adults, a free travel pass seems to have limited benefit.
Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Tilda principal investigator, said more older people will be driving in years to come but their patterns of transport use will also change.
"Greater numbers of people will rely on public transport or family and friends for getting around," she said.
"Consequently, as the population ages, we need to address the challenge of improved transport networks and services that meet the specific needs of older adults, especially in rural areas.
"Retaining public transport links and/or identifying alternative means of providing transport is required, and this is especially pertinent given the current challenges to the provision of public transport."
The Tilda report also detailed how patterns of transport use change as people get older and it warned about the importance of accessibility to quality transport options for people's mental health and well-being and for social participation.
Dr Orna Donoghue, project manager and one of the authors of the report, said: " A reduction in mobility, driving or available public transport options can also affect people's ability to attend events and social occasions and this can represent a huge lifestyle shift for older adults."
The key findings from the Tilda report were:
:: Nine out of 10 over-50s travel mainly by car, as a driver or passenger.
:: One quarter of adults in Dublin city or county rely mainly on public transport compared to just 2% in rural areas, reflecting the vast differences in available services.
:: As people get older, they are less likely to drive themselves and more likely to rely on lifts from others - 72% of women aged from 50 to 64 drive themselves, compared with 30% of women aged over 75.
:: 12% to 18% of over-75s in rural areas indicate that reduced frequency of driving or no longer driving affects their ability to socialise, attend business-related appointments and health or social care appointments.
:: Adults who rely on lifts from others are less likely to participate in social activities and volunteering.
:: Non-drivers, including those who used to drive earlier in their lives, report higher levels of depressive symptoms and loneliness and lower quality of life, compared with current drivers.