Monday, May 9, 2011

The Search for the Holy Grail: Senior Walkability

"Walkability".  When we're young and doe-eyed, an area's "walkability," or how friendly a neighborhood is to walking might not matter too much.  However, when the body begins to break down, staying active becomes more of a challenge.

Older Americans across the country take that challenge every day and rely on public transportation (like HART) to maintain their mobility.  Decisions that once only city planners and urbanites thought about when relocating, have now grown on the generation that "sprawled" out to the suburbs.

The benefits of walking are clear.  Older Americans that walk throughout the day tend to see their aerobic capacity and physical function increase, and their risk of disability lowered.  Not to mention, the possibility for social interaction and a little sun "fix", which helps avoid vitamin "D" deficiency. 

Understanding the importance of more walkable communities for New Jersey's growing senior population, Rutgers University organized "Senior Walkability" workshops to bring together community stakeholders in order to begin discussions on how to address the issue.

Their answer?  Denser, more pedestrian-friendly communities.

Sun City Center in southern Hillsborough County, is an age restricted (55+) senior community.  Several grocery stores, shopping outlets, restaurants, banks, and post offices are within a mile from the center of the community.  The community also features its own hospital and library.

Sun City Center residents have a number of transportation options within the community.

Residents are legally allowed to operate golf carts on streets and sidewalks along with having designated golf cart parking.  More adventurous Older Americans can walk or bike to their destination safely on sidewalks and crosswalks throughout the community.

HART Flex is only .85¢ one-way!
Older Americans in Sun City Center looking to save (a lot) of money, but also retain their independence, have HART as an option.  The Sun City Center HART Flex is an on-demand, door-to-door van pickup service.  Patrons can schedule pickup from as far in advance as one week to as soon as 3 hours before desired pickup.  The service flexes 1/2 mile from the route that runs from La Estancia Apartments to the Hillsborough Community College Southshore campus.  Fares are only 85¢ one-way and a travel trainer is available to assist with an initial run through of the service.  A training session can be scheduled by calling (813) 449-4545.

Sun City Center is a great example of what "Senior Walkability" should be.  Innovative approaches (golf carts and on-demand, door-to-door van service) to address the mobility needs of a graying America, coupled with proximity to activities and necessities.

To celebrate Older Americans Month and to promote Senior Mobility, HART is offering FREE rides to those 65+, when they ride with a friend or family member.  For more information on the promotion, click here.

HART Flex service is also expanding to other areas in Hillsborough County, to learn more about the existing service, please click here.

Click here for Rutgers University's Senior Walkability Workshops presentation.


  1. We could afford world class transit if our elected officials did not waste so much on roads.

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