A British study found that seniors who received free bus passes were more likely to engage in active travel, including walking, biking, and public transport.
Do you worry about an older relative who stays at home a lot? You might want to buy that person a bus pass. A new British study found that people over 60 who received free transit passes were more likely to get out and engage in more physically active forms of travel—including walking, biking, and public transport.
Free bus passes
The study, which was just published online in the American Journal of Public Health looked at several outcomes of a program in England that began in 2006 and that issued free bus passes to anyone aged 60 and older, with limited access, and then expanded in 2008 to include bus transit anywhere in England.
More active travel
Data collected through a National Travel Survey from 11,218 people aged 60 and older who received the free passes and 5,693 who didn’t, showed that those who had been issued a pass travelled more widely. The use of the free bus passes appeared to be consistent across the range of socioeconomic status.
Reduced social exclusion
According to the lead author of the study, Sophie Coronini-Cronberg, MSc, of Imperial College London, “A key purpose of the concessionary scheme is to increase bus use as a means of reducing social exclusion among older people and, in particular, to ensure access to travel among those on limited incomes.
What the study also found, though, was that those who used the free bus passes not only used transit more widely, but they also cycled and walked more often—three or more times per week. We all know what that means—better overall health.
The researchers, in their report, indicated the benefits of this program to the overall economy, given that physical activity was estimated to cost the (UK) economy £10.7 billion annually and that the free bus pass program, which was significantly associated with increased physical activity among older patients, cost much less at £1.1 billion annually.
The British study emphasizes the importance of staying engaged—especially as we age. Here are some other simple health tips for older adults: