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Life quality of senior citizens in relation to mobility conditions

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Network corridors
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

European policies regarding the elderly aim at maintaining their mobility as this is a central element of their integration in society. Senior citizens want to lead an autonomous and independent life (everything from shopping to visiting friends) as much and as long as possible without the help of others (for example the family). Losing the ability to participate in outdoor activities can create a vicious circle of immobility, implying that an important stimulus for the elderly to remain active vanishes. This regularly leads to passivity and loss of competence which affects health. This, in turn may induce still greater isolation and passivity. Thus, the provision of transport and mobility for the elderly is a central societal goal.

  1. To explain and describe the present mobility and transport situation, the problems, needs and wishes of different groups of senior citizens from their own perspective compared with experts' points of view ("experts" being sociologists, psychologists, traffic experts, experts on gerontology, architects and urban designers, urban planners, politicians, policy makers, experts of other related EU projects, etc.);
  2. To motivate action by the authorities and other relevant groups in society who are, or feel, responsible in this area, among others by making discrepancies in problem identification transparent;
  3. To identify relevant solutions for existing problems and to provide guidance for setting up and implementing policies aimed at "keeping the elderly mobile".

These objectives imply a user-oriented approach. The user-oriented approach calls most of all for an analysis of how senior citizens, or different groups of them, perceive today's transport and mobility preconditions. According to communication theories (reflected for example by the marketing model) measures should be built on that analysis. It is a fact, though, that many measures that the users would appreciate are not implemented in practice. This is often the case because the responsible persons or groups - we summarise them under the title "decision makers and experts" here - do not consider implementation feasible. However, we also have the strong suspicion that decision makers and experts often do not really know the needs and interests of groups who are affected by their work, or they have erroneous assumptions about them.


The methodology used in this project is threefold: Qualitative and quantitative studies and heuristic procedures (in the form of workshops).

For the qualitative studies we use focus group interviews (FGI) and in-depth interviews. FGI is an interview with a small group of people on a specific topic. The focus group interview is not a discussion, nor a problem-solving session and not a decision making group. It is an interview. In general, focus groups are conducted with people who do not know each other. The FGIs should deliver the concepts that are relevant from the perspectives of the senior citizens on the one hand and of the decision makers and experts on the other. As a completion of the qualitative approach, an elaboration of the concepts resulting from the FGI is necessary. This is best done with the help of narrative interviews (in-depth interviews). Their goal is to complete the range of arguments which have been collected in the FGI and to better specify and understand points of view about problems in today's mobility.

The standardised study has the function to quantify the materials derived from the qualitative methods, and to arrive at a quantitative empirical representation. With respect to the quantitative part of the project, the focus group interviews and the in depth interviews have the function of elaborating patterns and types of need dispositions, attitudes and every day practices concerning life quality and mobility aspects. The standardised interviews will open an opportunity to analyse the frequency distribution of the relevant variables and their interrelations by applying complex procedures of data. The field work is done by professional institutes, and raw data will be delivered to the respective consortium partners, who will do the statistical analysis. The standardised interviews are carried out in every participant country to get the possibility for a comparative control of the results on the one hand, and on the other hand for the reason that in the end the results of this project are arguments for political decisions. To minimise the artefacts during the data collection and interpretation, for example because of translation problems, it is necessary to pre-test the standardised instrument before a larger sample will be interviewed. As far as representativity is concerned we see to it that the institutes which will carry out the statistical survey act according to the routines of empirical social research.

The third important part of work, besides q


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission
Type of funding
Public (EU)


Quality of life is in our case a construct out of the question groups with the contents "satisfaction and autonomy index", "pension", "subjective statements about safety and fears", and "reliance on a mobility aids (rollator, stick)". But it is also necessary to prove the importance of concrete preconditions and environmental framework elements, which experts as well as seniors (in our qualitative study!) appreciate as influential on quality of life in the context of mobility. Two different approaches have been taken in fulfilling this task: A ranking of the elements which are assessed as mostly satisfying and those which are least satisfying.

In contrast to common opinion, the illumination of streets is generally satisfying most of our participants, and so are the possibility to find company to go out with and places to sit and to rest. But the senior citizens have relatively little trust that speed limits will be respected by drivers. They also criticise a bad infrastructure for cycling, a lack of financial resources for mobility aids and a lack of toilets in public spaces.

Technical Implications

Social and political solutions:

  • experts in general assessed as the most urgent solution the enforcement of speed restrictions (mean rate 2,27), but also the carrying-out of campaigns in order to make people more aware of the problems of older adults (1,90), and measures to increase the sense of security and safety of older people (1,89);
  • not very urgent they believe are: introducing age-specific legislation (mean rate 1,09), carrying mobile phones by seniors (1,29) and nominating a senior representative in government/administration (1,33);
  • Swedish experts, in contrast to all other experts, do not attribute high urgency to two types of measures: campaigns in order to make people more aware of the problems of older adults, and introduction of age-specific legislation;
  • Austrian experts, more than others, advocated the urgency of mobile phones for seniors and the nomination of senior representatives in the government.


  • all experts agree that the most urgent solution for walking seniors is to improve pavements (mean rate 2,16), but all other solutions in this group were also assessed as fairly urgent: more foot-paths (mean rate 1,91), reducing crossing distance (mean rate 1,89) and prolonging crossing time at some traffic lights (mean rate 1,74);
  • only German experts said that it is not very urgent to improve the pavements;
  • relatively big differences concerning longer crossing times at traffic lights, compared to the other countries, appeared in Poland, Spain and Sweden, where this is considered less urgent;
  • Austrian experts, on the other hand, attributed high urgency to prolonging crossing times and reducing crossing distances.


  • in general, the experts' opinion was that all infrastructure related solutions are urgent and the most urgent are: adaptation of housing for seniors needs (mean rate 2,18) and increase of resting places in the public area (mean rate 1,92);
  • road illumination received the highest rates in Austria and in Sweden, in contrast to Poland, the Czech Republic and Italy where this solution is assessed as less urgent;
  • housing adaptation is most urgent in the opinion of Austrian experts, but less urgent in the opinion of experts from Ireland and Germany.
  • Policy implications

    There are four possible developments and problem solutions which are to a high degree "political" because they need complex political action and political decision making processes. On a legislative level we find for instance: A cut back of welfare, priority for pedestrians and cyclists in the cities, priority for buses and trams and a markup of taxes to improve access to public transportation systems. In relation to the whole sample, there were more seniors than experts who feared a welfare cut-back because of its negative effects especially on seniors. The opinion of experts was very inconsistent; they either agreed fully or not at all. Experts  rpeferred arrangements with priority for certain road users: pedestrians, cyclists and buses/trams. Experts usually plea for a "flexible" implementation of measures for different modes of mobility; perhaps in some EU
    countries this is corresponding to a "political correct" form of problem solving.

    Priority for pedestrians and cyclists is also reasonable from the viewpoint of geriatrics, because walking or riding a bicycle in a safe way is a good measure to maintain physical abilities and health. Also in this sense supporting priority for pedestrians and cyclist will be "politically correct" in a "greying world".

    Priority for buses and trams is often a request of ecological oriented persons, also of some NGOs. The reduction of individual motorised traffic with its noise and pollution could be the effect of such a measure; with respect to senior citizens, this measure is targeted at a reduction of traffic accidents, too. If it is combined with a de-mixing of modes of traffic itcould be a solution in the interest of all road users because of its accident reducing effect.

    The participants of our study agreed to this strategy intensively.

    It might be a sign of inconsistency of opinion that a notable fraction of the same people did not agree with the demand that local authorities should be forced to improve access to public transportation systems, even if this requires to introduce higher taxes.

    Financial contributions to the improvement of the mobility situation of senior citizens seem to be a knock out criterion to the seniors themselves; experts do not think so.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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