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Rural Health Information Hub

Transportation Programs

Part of aging in place well is being able to interact with one's community. Access to transportation is key, and transportation is an essential component of livable communities. Many older adults develop health and mobility impairments that make it difficult to drive themselves. Additionally, life expectancy exceeds driving expectancy, so it is important for older adults to create a plan for transportation independence.

Rural areas face unique transportation challenges. The availability of transportation service differs between rural and metro areas — 33% of rural areas have public transportation available compared to 75% of metro core places. Some services like paratransit and dial-a-ride can improve older adults' mobility options, but their availability in rural areas is still limited. There are transportation services funded through the Older Americans Act that are available in 80% of rural areas, but these services are limited to providing transportation to and from medical appointments. There are also volunteer transportation programs in rural communities that provide rides to older adults. Some programs offer an additional level of service to older adults who require greater assistance (door-through-door) or help with mobility devices.

Transportation programs in rural areas to help older adults age in place should prioritize the following:

  • Accessibility
  • Affordability
  • Reliability
  • Flexibility
  • Offering rides to activities beyond healthcare appointments

There are resources that can help older adults to identify transportation programs in their communities. The Eldercare Locator, administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, is a national referral resource that connects people to local transportation programs and services. Rides in Sight is a free searchable database on transportation programs for older adults and people with visually impairments.

For more information about transportation, see RHIhub's Transportation to Support Rural Healthcare topic guide and Rural Transportation Toolkit.

Resources to Learn More

Aging in Place: A Toolkit for Local Governments
Provides an overview of public transportation issues and some strategies for improvement. It also provides successful aging in place programs. The transportation section of the document starts on page 13.
Author(s): Ball, M.S.
Organization(s): Atlanta Regional Commission, Community Housing Resource Center

Medicines Risk Fact Sheet
Helps patients to identify medicines that put them at risk, potential side effects, and questions they can ask their doctor.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Eldercare Locator
Describes a national referral resource that connects people to community programs and services for older adults, including transportation.
Organization(s): Association of Area Agencies on Aging

The Future of Rural Transportation and Mobility for Older Adults
Describes the transformation of mobility for older adults in rural communities through innovations in technology.
Author(s): Broderick, A.
Organization(s): Grantmakers in Aging; CITRIS and the Banatao Institute
Date: April 2018

National Center on Senior Transportation's Older Drive Safety & Transition for the Mature Driver
Describes steps that you can take to ensure your ongoing safety as a driver and considerations for mobility planning.
Organization(s): National Center on Senior Transportation

Safe Driving for Older Adults
Provides important considerations for older drivers, including physical changes that may impact driving, safe driving tips, and resources for more information.
Organization(s): National Institute on Aging

Transportation to Support Rural Healthcare
Provides an overview of transportation as a social determinant of health in rural communities, as well as resources for developing a transportation program.
Organization(s): Rural Health Information Hub