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“There is a steep slope to the pavement ahead, it would be easier to cross here,” said the bollard.
Talking bollards that can detect your presence by sensing a signal from your phone are being developed to help older people get around.
By scanning a database it can determine what help it should offer that individual, such as turning up the street lights for those who would like brighter surroundings.
“Responsive street furniture has the potential to make moving around easier for people with many different impairments, by allowing the street to respond to their particular needs,” said Ross Atkin, who designed the bollards, produced by Marshalls and on show at a Transport for London event in October.
As with the bollards, much of the work done by the transport industry to serve the growing numbers of older people aims to help them get around comfortably. Bus passengers are offered a variety of cards that can be shown to a driver when boarding, keeping their request private. ‘Please speak slowly – I am hard of hearing’ one reads. Users can write in their destination so drivers can alert them to their stop.
The scheme was brought in by FirstGroup in a partnership with the charity Age UK but proved so popular it was introduced across the industry.
Bus and train manufacturers are also adapting. “We look at access issues in a very serious way, and it’s what has helped us triple the size of our business,” said Bill Simpson, group corporate affairs director at Alexander Dennis. The company, one of Britain’s biggest bus and coach manufacturers, designs the low floors on its buses with the elderly in mind. Two doors allow faster entry, while for those who are unsteady on their feet it has fixed extra handles to seats. Hooks on seat backs are designed for carrier bags full of shopping.
Hitachi, the Japanese engineering and electronics company that builds trains, is building trains for the Intercity Express Programme, arriving from 2017, the Great Western line from London to the West of England in 2017, and the East Coast main line between London and Scotland the following year.
As with all its new train designs, Hitachi has increased the pitch of its seats to offer more knee room for passengers with reduced mobility.
Yet not every company specialising in moving people is treating its older customers differently.
Some 12 per cent of easyJet’s passengers are over the age of 60. They are often affluent and spend more than a younger traveller. A large proportion are travelling to a second home, but Mr Duffy said that had not affected the destinations the low-cost carrier flew to, or its marketing.
Nevertheless, the low cost carrier is wary of targeting this audience. “We are very careful not to patronise a specific community,” said Peter Duffy, easyJet’s commercial director.
Regulation has prompted many of the changes that make travel easier for older passengers. For example, it is a legal requirement to make sure vehicles are accessible for those with physical impairments.
Jonathan Bray, director of the Passenger Transport Executive, which represents transport authorities around the country, says this is an issue for the whole transport industry. “Often [older people] want to be seen just like everybody else and just want a decent service.”
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