Introduction to SIZE

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. The introduction above leads to the formulation of the following general objectives of our work:

  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.

Thus, when analysing user needs and interests, matters of feasibility and barriers to implementation, we will look at both groups, and their respective subgroups: senior citizens, and decision makers and experts who in some way deal with transport and mobility matters that affect senior citizens. The focus has to be on better understanding of the mobility problems of elderly citizens:

  •   How do they cope with the limitations of old age?

  •  What are the positive sides of today’s situation, from their own  point of  view? What should be kept as it is?

  •  What are the negative sides of today’s situation?

  •  Which measures have the potential, and which measures are  necessary, to improve their situation?

  •  Would these measures be feasible and realistic?

  •  What prevents measures that, at least in words, are considered  useful   either by senior citizens, or by decision makers and  experts, or by both   groups, from being implemented?

The recommendations developed in SIZE will lead to implementations, and effects of implementations, which can – and should – be measured with the help of the instruments developed in SIZE, even after the lifetime of the project. Secondly, when applied for status-quo assessment, the qualitative, user-oriented part of our instruments should provide the basis for the development of measures to improve both physical and legal preconditions, and to adapt communication policy. Transport and mobility preconditions will improve the life quality of senior citizens if they are shaped according to the needs and interests of the different groups of senior citizens, and if information about existing options and possibilities is distributed accordingly.

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