Transport and ageing: extending quality of life for older people via public and private transport

Project lead: Professor Mary Gilhooly

Research team

  • Professor Mary Gilhooly

  • Professor Kerry Hamilton

  • Ms Maureen O'Neill

  • Ms Kate Bainbridge

  • Ms Jane Gow

  • Ms Nina Webster


December 1999 - February 2002


Professor Mary Gilhooly
School of Social Work and Primary Care
University of Plymouth
Portland Square
Drake Circus
Plymouth PL4 8AA

Tel: +44 1752 23 3390 or +44 1752 23 3235


Accessible public transport, and the independence that comes with car driving, are factors known to be linked to quality of life (QoL) in old age. While older people may experience increasing difficulties in continuing to drive, and many might like to increase their use of public transport, recent privatisation has meant that, in some areas, the provision of transport has declined. In addition, more older people are car owners with little or no experience, as well as negative perceptions, of public transport, and may be unwilling to give up driving. What kinds of policies could be developed in an increasingly privatised society that could encourage the use of public transport? To what extent are car manufacturers thinking about the needs of older people?

Aims and objectives

The aim of this project is to examine public and private transport needs in relation to QoL in old age, with the following specific objectives:

  • To compare and contrast the views of older adults (baby boomers and older people) and policy makers on the role of public and private transport in enhancing the QoL in old age.

  • To explore the impact of different transport policies on the QoL of older people.

  • To produce guidelines for local authorities, government organisations, transport manufacturers and operators, on the transport needs of older adults.

Study design

Because this is basically an exploratory study, a multi-method design has been chosen, using multiple and different sources, methods, investigators and theories. The study will examine the views of older people, those of various organisations that impact on transport policy, and the policies themselves. The views of older people will be examined by telephone and face-to-face interviews and postal questionnaires. Interview schedules will be developed from the results of focus groups and street surveys.

The investigators have backgrounds in gerontology and social psychology and in transport studies. Collaboration between the Universities of Paisley and East London will enable comparisons to be made between different areas. The study will also examine similarities and differences between the views of males and females, those with and without access to a car and respondents in different age groups.

Policy implications

The evidence from the study of the impact of different transport policies on QoL and the comparisons between the views of individuals and those of policy makers will enable guidelines on the transport needs of older adults to be produced. The results of the research will be disseminated in a number of ways, including working papers for local authorities and government organisations, guidelines for car manufacturers, television or radio programmes, web site information services, journal articles and presentations at academic conferences.