A model of mobility capital for an ageing population
We live in what we academics describe as a hypermobile society which results in high distances being travelled, with such distances being seen as quite normal, in order to stay connected to family and friends, access shops and services, visit health centres and hospitals and partake in leisure. Quite normal changes in physiology and cognition as we age, can make mobility more difficult, especially when the environment is not designed well. Using data from focus groups and interviews with 36 older people in South Wales, including drivers, public transport users, regular walkers and those who rely on lifts from family and friends, on their transport issues and enablers in later life and decided that would be a good starting point to sort it out. Working with Theresa Scott from University of Queensland, Australia, we framed the findings around Bourdieu’s theory of capital. This helps identify different levels of resource in different areas above and beyond a financial capital model. It helps reveal structures of power and inequalities within different contexts. The resulting model suggests four capitals are important in maintaining mobility in later life,
infrastructure capital (technology, services, roads, pavements, finance and economics),
social capital (friends, family, neighbourhood and community),
cultural capital (norms, expectations, rules, laws) and
individual capital (skills, abilities, resilience, adaptation and desire and willingness to change).
Interpretation of the findings suggest there is an order to these capitals. By far the most important capital mentioned by older people is infrastructure capital. However, this alone is not enough to provide mobility in later life, and there needs to be the further three levels of capital that can help older people achieve mobility. Social capital is the next most important, having friends and family that support the mobility the older person wants, but also having a local neighbourhood and community to support the individual is also noted as significant. This is supported by cultural capital, including societal norms and expectations of mobility. Parallel to this is the support individual capital gives, for example some older people talked about having a personality that meant they were open to change, making them more open to trying new forms of transport. More is needed on how the capitals co-exits, for example, how they get exchanged between people, especially between the holder of the capital and those in deficit of it. This might help reveal who is responsible for this. A nice next stage for the model would be to examine the flow and movement between the different capitals which would help to reveal lines of responsibility for supporting older people’s mobility. Publications Musselwhite, C. and Scott, T. (2019). Developing a Model of Mobility Capital for an Ageing Population. International Journal of. Environmental Research and Public Health 16, no. 18: 3327 Presentations Musselwhite, C.B.A. (2019). Prioritising barriers and enablers to mobility in later life: the need for more social capital. British Society of Gerontology Conference, Liverpool, UK. 11 July.