Environments to Support Mobility: A Review

Mobility is crucial to Aging Well, as it enables physical activity, social interaction, and greater community involvement for older adults. While one often thinks of mobility in terms of individual traits—for example, the ability to walk safely for a prolonged period of time, to drive, or to see well at night—there are a variety of environmental and community factors that can either contribute to or limit mobility. A review article in the Journal of Aging Research presents a model for social and environmental factors that can promote a mobile, healthy older adult life by identifying several professional and community initiatives taking place to encourage mobility.

The model for healthy aging developed by the authors, which is elaborated in the article, includes five domains: individual, interpersonal, institutional, community, and public policy. These five domains are distinct yet interrelated with one another. For example, individuals influence, and are influenced by, their interpersonal relationships, neighborhood institutions, and community agencies. Initiatives can be taken at each of these domains to support mobility and successful aging. The authors identify several areas where professions and community groups are developing new ways to support mobility in the four non-individual domains. Some initiatives for mobility presented in the article are:

  • The Safe States Alliance, which collaborates with transportation agencies around the country to encourage community planning that includes safe, pedestrian-friendly streets;
  • The Gerontological Society of America, an organization of professionals that studies aging and encourages collaboration between researchers across disciplines, including research on the relationship between design and healthy aging;
  • The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, an umbrella organization that connects older adults with a wide range of community services and advocates for public policy to encourage housing, transportation, and other services for older adults.

Overall, the review article identifies several professional organizations that are creating mobility-enhancing environments for older adults. The article offers a conceptual model of community-enhanced mobility as well as several examples of initiatives to encourage active aging.

Source: Kochtitzky, C.S.; Freeland, A.L. and Yen, I.H. (2011). “Ensuring Mobility-Supporting Environments for an Aging Population: Critical Actors and Collaborations.” Journal of Aging Research, 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21766029

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