Katherine’s Walk: Day 14, April 24

Another light, soft spring day, and I spent it in the garden, trying to make my flower beds halfway presentable. But after only an hour of weeding and leaf/twig/dead stuff from last year patrol, I called my friend Toby Rosenberg to say hi. I asked her to walk with me and she drove right over so we could walk my neighborhood. To this day, my neighborhood is a delightful place to walk, and I see dog walkers and strollers promenading at all hours and in all weather, admiring gardens, nodding hello, stopping to chat. Very civilized.

Some say that if we only had more neighborhoods like this, older people would be able to stop driving when the time comes, and ride public transportation once again. I think you can tell that I love my neighborhood, but I am going to have to disagree with this popularly held belief about traditional mass transportation. The reason is these older systems were never built for people who live well into their 80’s and 90’s as we do today. In his book, The Longevity Revolution: The Benefits and Challenges of Living a Long Life, Dr. Robert Butler, the father of gerontology in America, explains that we have added 30 years to the human life span in the last 100 years. We are so deeply involved in the effects of aging it is hard to gain enough distance to really see what is happening. But when it comes to transportation, if you ask any 80 or 90 year old person how they would prefer to travel, they will tell you either a car, or walking, and they will tell you that whether they live in the country, the suburbs or the streetcar suburbs. Whether it is icy sidewalks, carrying packages, waiting in the hot sun, or even managing when you are just not feeling so well, people in their 80’s and 90’s need a different transportation system than traditional mass transit.

A new member of the Transit family, the Independent Transportation Network® is specifically designed for the needs of today’s older generation. That is why it has all of the characteristics they have told us they prefer—an unmarked automobile that comes to the curb and a friendly driver who calls at the door, offering an arm for balance (if it is needed,) opening the car door, helping with the seat belt (if it is needed,) carrying packages, folding a walker or wheelchair, and generally providing a feeling of safety and security. The truth is, we know very little about the psychology of people who live to such extended ages because we have never been here before. I just think we can learn more if we listen than if we just tell older people what they should be doing.

This is the last of three days home before I leave again, this time for Edmonton, Alberta, where I am speaking at Edmonton’s 2nd International Conference on Urban Traffic Safety: Improving Urban Traffic Safety: Championing Collaboration for Success in our Communities.
I have to confess, Toby and I only walked half a mile. But it was fun. More from Canada, soon. (.5 mile, 26.5 miles total)