Saturday, September 06, 2008

AARP Out of Touch

AARP's answer to senior citizens caught in the gas price squeeze is: walk, ride a bike or take a bus! A bit less than 1/3rd of their respondents cite walking more to avoid high gas prices. What about the other 2/3rds? AARP doesn’t say.

A new poll by AARP finds that while many Americans ages 50+ are trying to move away from car transportation as a result of high gas prices, their attempt to go “green” is challenged by inadequate sidewalks and bike lanes, as well as insufficient public transportation options. “More Americans age 50+ are trying to leave their cars behind but face obstacles as soon as they walk out the door, climb on their bikes or head for the bus,” said Elinor Ginzler, AARP Senior Vice President for Livable Communities.

Almost one of every three people (29%) polled say they are now walking as a way to avoid high gas prices.

I guess AARP does't know that lots of seniors have mobility difficulties. That walking and cycling on slick streets, not to mention waiting out in bad weather or in high or low temperatures until a bus arrives, may not be good for older people.

Maybe AARP doesn't know that grocery shopping on foot, by bike, or by bus means multiple trips and presents significant transport difficulties unless one can live on a half-filled bag of groceries a week. (Not even considering the weight problem, ever try juggling a full bag of groceries or two bags when getting on a bus, walking a couple of miles, or cycling? It ain't pretty.)

What would really be interesting is an AARP survey on how many seniors think walking, taking the bus or cycling are satisfactory answers for grocery shopping, going to the doctor or any of the other activities that are essential to their day to day living and welfare.

Actually AARP has done a survey that sort of says that. When the other 2/3rds of seniors weigh in they say the high price of gas is hurting them:

Almost all respondents are concerned about gas prices. More than two-thirds of respondents (67%) have limited their daily driving and more than six in ten (61%) have cut back on other expenses in order to accommodate high gas prices.

For the vast majority of seniors the answer is not walking, cycling or riding the bus, but lowering fuel prices by more drilling. A Pew Research poll in July found that 62% of Americans age 65 and older support drilling in ANWR.

AARP seems to have ignored what's in the best interest for the majority of seniors and gone on a wild goose chase after "cool" but inadequate alternatives.


OregonGuy said...

I remember my grandma walking to the store. Of course, I never saw my grandma drive a car.

There was a Rosauer's about four blocks away from my grandma's house on Thatcher Street. Of course, when the weather got bad there were daughters and nieces and nephews around to make sure grandma was okay.

Oh, and they drove cars. (Well, trucks actually. You know those farm boys.)

I guess my grandma was either a preliminist or one of the first post-modernists. A truly foward-thinking woman.

Of course, it could be that she didn't think she needed a car.

terrance said...


Thanks for your comment.

Walking does work for about a third of seniors in some of their daily life. In a small town today (or the small neighborhood grocery store of the past), walking did work. Although, I think lots of stores did deliveries even back then because some supplies were not that transportable (like 20 lbs of potatoes or 20 lbs of flour or a good supply of canned goods).

One of my grandmothers never learned to drive. But, my grandfather drove her to the store. Even though she lived near 55th and Halsey, there wasn't a good grocery store close enough to walk to.

In the senior communities in my area there's a transport van to take people to and from the store. That's a much more reasonable option (door to door service) than either walking, cycling or the bus.

I'm fairly healthy, but I would find it extremely difficult to do the grocery and other shopping I need to do (e.g., a large bag of dry dog food every so often for our collie) by bike, bus or walking--and that doesn't even bring in the weather factors and the high step getting on to and off a bus that can be a hardship for seniors.

My point is that for most American seniors walking, cycling and bus riding are not good options for day-to-day living needs like grocery shopping, medical appointments, etc. But, AARP, with its political anti-fossil fuel agenda doesn't really represent the needs of its constituency. So, it ignores them in favor of the third for whom walking, cycling and bus riding is an option for some (not all) transportation needs.