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Transportation Needs as Population Continues to Grow

Tuesday, January 9, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kay Castillo
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Blair Barton-Percival is quoted in the following article posted by The Insider on January 9, 2018. Mr. Barton-Percival is an NASW-NC member and is active on NASW-NC's Legislative and PACE Committees.

Transportation Needs

As the state's population continues to age, the state's transportation system will need to adapt to their needs. Michael Walden, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at N.C. State University, said as North Carolina's population continues to climb higher, one of the most "significant aspects" of the population will be the change in composition. The 2010 census had the state's senior population -- those 65 or older -- at 13 percent, and that number will continue to increase, according to Walden's prediction. "That obviously has transportation implications as well as implications for just about every business and industry we can think of," Walden said.

Blair Barton-Percival, the area agency on aging director of the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, said when he talks about seniors, he's talking about those 60 or older. "Ten thousand people a day in this country are turning 65," he said, adding that if there are going to be more seniors, they are going to need more transportation. Almost a third of seniors live alone in North Carolina, which can lead to other challenges beyond transportation needs. In 2016, Barton-Percival said there were 2,169,194 seniors, which is about 21 percent of the population, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the next two decades, seniors are expected to become 26 percent of the population.

Barton-Percival said transportation allows seniors access to appropriate and well-coordinated healthcare, nutritious food and any medication or healthcare supplies they need. Seniors who don't have access to transportation to medical care are also more likely to have a chronic health condition that can escalate to a need for emergency care, he said. According to Barton-Percival's presentation, about 3.6 million people in the country don't get medical care due to transportation barriers. Barriers to transportation include not being able to walk the full distance from a drop-off or pick-up site, lack of accessibility for people with devices such as a walker or cane, not having enough stamina to wait for long periods of time for a pick-up, lack of shelters for waiting areas, and traffic signals changing too fast for a senior to be able to cross a road safely.

There are also fears and stigmas around certain forms of public transportation, Barton-Percival said. Some seniors feel vulnerable to others in buses or vans, and public transportation in some areas is called "mobile mental health units" or "welfare wagons." He said in order to provide adequate services, the state should increase funding for home and community care block grants, investigate changing trends and payment models in healthcare, focus funding on addressing social determinants of heath and save on the high expenses of nursing home care on the back end, and find opportunities within transitioning North Carolina from a traditional fee-for-service Medicaid to Managed Care.

As the need for better transportation infrastructure for seniors and the elderly population continues, the big question that looms is: How can we pay for it? Walden, the N.C. State professor, said the state could expand taxation on new fuels, or use general funds for it. There's also the option of private funding, including toll roads. (Lauren Horsch, THE INSIDER, 1/09/18)

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