Rural seniors need better options for connecting homes with health care

a farm house at the end of a long dirt road

A multidisciplinary team of researchers is examining economic issues associated with providing transportation for the rural elderly and other socially disadvantaged populations.

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,” James Mjelde, research team leader and a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics. “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 Rebekka Dudensing, a research team co-member and a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist. “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; of how individual needs translate into broader community issues; and of how the adoption of innovative solutions and information technology might improve the coordination, management and efficiency of rural transit systems.

Specific recommendations are in the report titled, “Economics of Transportation Research Needs for Rural Elderly and Transportation Disadvantaged Populations.”

The international team also includes Jonathan Brooks, an assistant research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute; Blane Counsil, a Texas A&M junior majoring in agricultural economics; and researchers from McGill University, Washington State University, the University of Central Missouri, Utah State University, West Virginia University and Buena Vista University.

Funding for the project was provided by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

More at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Download the report