Singapore is a world leader in transport system design and has one of the most cost-efficient public transport networks in the world. Given that transportation is one of the major determinants of active ageing in Singapore, the Government has been acting to achieve a seamless transport system that promote the use of public transportation for commuting, including among older aged cohorts.
The National Action Plan for Successful Ageing 2016 comprises a number of initiatives relating to transportation. Some of the schemes to enhance accessibility for older adults are highlighted below:
- Priority Queues: Priority queue zones for the elderly, expectant mothers and the disabled are located beside boarding berths for the MRT system. ones are highlighted in different colours to aid visibility and signs provide instructions to other commuters to give way to those in need. Tactiles installed on floors also assist people with visual impairments to locate waiting areas.
- Wayfinding: Signage on public transport nodes has been simplified and made more legible to facilitate way-finding.
- Wheelchair-accessible buses: Since 2006, all new public buses registered in Singapore have been required to be wheelchair-accessible. The entire bus fleet is expected to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020.
- Senior Citizen Concession Card: Personalised smart cards allow senior citizens to pay for basic bus services and trains at a subsidised rate.
- Green Man+ Scheme – Older pedestrians may tap their senior citizen concession cards on a reader attached to traffic light poles to extend the intersection crossing time. This initiative ensures older pedestrians are able to cross roads safely and at a comfortable pace. By 2018, 1000 crossings across Singapore will have this facility.
Public Engagement and Participation
Singapore is exploring a holistic approach to improving the transportation system for older population that involves citizen engagement and participation. Since 2014, the Ministerial Committee on Ageing has organised a series of focus group discussions to discuss issues related to an ageing population. Transport was highlighted as a key issue, and in particular participants were concerned about improving safety, creating better accessibility, greater comfort and better wayfinding.
The discussions informed the development of prototypes to support older adults to better navigate the city. The prototypes were tested by older adults who then shared their experiences of their journeys through the city. They highlighted the usefulness of passenger information display on buses such as having two LED screens to display upcoming bus stops, and one LCD screen showing the current stop and the next two stops. Local accented audio enhancement buses were also suggested by older adults as a possible intervention to help the visually impaired on buses.
In addition to public transport, cycling has been a growing field of interest and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been constructing a comprehensive network of cycling paths within its towns. These cycling paths connect residential areas with key public transport nodes, such as MRT stations and bus interchanges, neighbourhood centres, markets and schools – as well as to the city’s 300 km Park Connector Network.
There is mounting evidence that cycling can prevent a host of ailments in people of all ages. A study on the relationship between age and physiological function in highly active older cyclists reported equivalent levels of balance, reflexes, metabolic health and memory ability in older and younger people. The findings suggest that age-associated decline in physiological function may be attenuated through physical activity engagement.
Encouraging the elderly to cycle involves more than providing robust infrastructure, but also addressing the psychosocial barriers to cycling. There are several cities, most notably in Europe, who have been working to increase confidence amongst the senior population to cycle, including cycle training programmes and guided trips for older adults.
Examples include the Green City Senior Cycling Training in Munich, Germany, a four hour course that takes place over the course of two days. Most participants are around 60 years old, and through the course learn about road safety and the health aspects of cycling, have a chance to test out various types of bicycles, such as low-frame cycles and battery-powered cycles on a safe test course, and take guided bike tours on specially designed, obstacle free pathways.
‘Attaining Energy-Efficient Mobility in an Ageing Society’ (AENAS) is a European project on urban mobility for older people. Through their project, a series of 24 cycle trips were organised for older residents in Odense, Denmark. The guided trips were led by experienced cyclists aged between 58 and 71, and participants interacted with a municipal officer who informed them about the areas in which they were cycling. Other initiatives under this programme included internet seminars where participants were taught how to use a cycle route planner, and in person meetings where older people could test ride electric bikes. The post-evaluation of the cycling trips showed that 40% of the participants intended to cycle more in the future, while 23% wanted to drive less.
For more information about these and other cycle-friendly initiatives, read up on our series of web posts on the topic of Ageing and Mobility here.
– Adithi Moogoor, Research Assistant