The aging baby boomer population is increasing the importance of mobility issues, including transportation, to society, the researchers said, also noting studies are needed to examine potential alternatives to increase the mobility of the elderly including both private and public alternatives.
"There are several reasons why the elderly proportion of the rural population is increasing, including aging in place, people retiring to rural areas and outmigration of young people," said Dr. James Mjelde, research team leader and professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University in College Station. "As people are living longer, transportation for healthcare and other needs becomes even more paramount."
Rural residents are sometimes forced to make the difficult decision of staying in place or moving closer to healthcare and other services. The team hopes their research recommendations will help enhance rural transportation options to improve the quality of life for elderly and other disadvantaged individuals.
"Rural transportation providers are looking at innovative solutions," said Dr. Rebekka Dudensing, research team co-member and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist in College Station. "It's clear that there is no single issue or solution that addresses the spectrum of rural transit districts."
Research recommendations include: improving the basic understanding of the needs of rural transit; how individual needs translate into broader community issues; how the adoption of innovative solutions and information technology might improve the coordination, management and efficiency of rural transit systems.