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Promoting Mobility in DSM: Policy Innovations + Mental Wellness Impact

Transportation for Older Populations

December 7, 2023

As the population ages, Greater Des Moines (DSM) must prioritize policies promoting mobility and improving mental wellness among older individuals. By implementing forward-thinking transportation policies, DSM can create a more inclusive and supportive space for its aging residents.

In this article, we will discuss the challenges that older adults face regarding mobility and mental wellness and highlight some policy innovations that can address these issues in Des Moines.

The Impact of Aging Adults on Transportation Ecosystems

As individuals age, their mobility tends to decrease due to physical limitations and health conditions. This can lead to feelings of isolation, depression and decreased overall quality of life.

These challenges can also have significant impacts on the transportation system, such as:

  • increased demand for convenient transportation options such as wheelchair ramps and handrails
  • a greater need for affordable and reliable transportation services for medical appointments and daily errands
  • a decreased use of public transportation due to difficulty navigating stairs and long distances
  • a higher risk of accidents and injuries for older drivers, leading to potential strain on emergency services
  • changes in traffic patterns and demand for specific routes or modes of transportation
  • a shift towards more eco-friendly modes of transportation, such as public transit or cycling — B-Cycle is a great option with stations across downtown as well as into the Drake neighborhood.
  • an increase in older people opting to age-in-place rather than move to assisted living facilities leads to a greater need for transportation services that support independent living

These demands can strain the city's transportation systems and require adjustments to accommodate aging residents. However, with proper planning and implementation of policies prioritizing accessibility and inclusivity, older residents can easily get around DSM, leading to improved mental wellness and quality of life.

Innovative Initiatives for Aging Adult Mobility

DSM has introduced several initiatives to promote movement and improve mental wellness among older adults. Let's explore some of these initiatives and their impact on the community:

Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART)

The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) provides various services such as paratransit that offers accessibility for aging adults and people with disabilities. In addition to offering access to appropriate transit services, DART is committed to investigating complaints regarding the fair treatment of mature individuals and ensuring their needs are met.

This proactive approach to promoting accessibility has improved the transportation experience for older people and contributed to a more positive attitude towards public transit within the community.

Age-Friendly Cities Initiative

The City of Des Moines has joined the World Health Organization's Age-Friendly Cities Initiative, which aims to create communities that support active aging and promote healthy living. As a member of this initiative, the City is actively working towards improving accessibility and inclusivity for older people in areas such as transportation, housing and outdoor spaces.

Age-Friendly Businesses

In addition to the above options, businesses in Des Moines have also taken steps toward promoting aging adult mobility. Many companies have implemented age-friendly practices, such as providing seating areas for older residents, enlarging words for better readability and reducing hazardous obstacles.

These initiatives not only promote movement but also contribute to enhanced mental wellness by providing opportunities for social interaction and a sense of purpose.

The Correlation Between Accessible Transit and Improved Mental Health

Aging can bring on lifestyle changes which can result in reduced mobility, higher rates of physical disabilities or increased isolation; these in turn can affect the mental wellness of aging adults. Some aging adults may experience depression or other mental health stressors if they are unable to cope with these lifestyle adjustments. However, accessible transportation can play a large role in offsetting some of these challenges, by providing the following:

  • Social connections: Transport can help adults attend group outings, which can combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. Easter Seals Iowa and other volunteer opportunities also allow older adults to stay connected to the DSM community.
  • Wellness activities: Transport can provide access and allow aging adults to participate in activities that promote mental and physical well-being, such as fitness classes with places like Wellmark YMCA.
  • Career opportunities: If mature adults wish to continue working beyond retirement age, they can use public transportation to help access these jobs.
  • Accessibility: Convenient transportation options make it easier for older residents to access essential services, such as medical appointments or grocery stores.
  • Improved quality of life: Transport allows riders to stay connected with the community and maintain a sense of purpose and independence.

With these benefits in mind, it is clear that encouraging movement enhances a senior individual’s well-being and positively impacts the community as a whole. As we continue to see advancements in technology and transportation, DSM must remain proactive in supporting the needs of older people and encouraging their independence.

With the #7 Lowest Cost of Living in the U.S. and a Top Metro for Number of Economic Development Projects (among metros with a population of 200,000 to 1 million), Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a region where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.

Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.