Pattern of Mobility and Social Participation Among Older People in Britain and Canada

Welcome to an exciting new chapter in the Aging Matters blog. Starting this week a new guest blogger will be featured on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Each guest blog will feature a unique perspective from a professional in the field of aging.

Our first guest blogger is Dr. Lok Bhattarai who completed his PhD on older people’s social isolation and well being in Britain. He has published research articles relating to older people’s health and social security issues in international journals. He now resides in Canada and is aiming to do further research on 1) cross-cultural study of aging, well-being, and happiness from health promotion and social policy perspective 2) international migration, aging, older people’s care and inter-generational relationships in the context of Canada.

Pattern of Mobility and Social Participation
Among Older People in Britain and Canada
by Dr. Lok Bhattarai

There are several aspects of social, cultural and economic life in Britain and Canada about which a meaningful comparison could be made. I have an observation relating to a pattern of older people’s general mobility and social participation in these two countries particularly based on West Yorkshire region in Britain and Peel region in Canada. Interestingly, both the select regions have the English speaking population in majority and the South Asian populations as visible minorities.

Older people’s mobility and social participation in public places is noticeably more frequent in the British case than it is in Canada. Depending on locality and the time of the day, older people in Britain often make a main group of passengers on the local bus services. In Britain, bus services are found almost everywhere and buses even connect neighbourhoods located in remote rural areas. Roads in the residential area are quite narrow and the speed limit is lower compared to that of Peel/Ontario. Older people can catch buses at a very short walking distance and can travel to their destination quite comfortably and can change buses as they need. The narrow intersections, low volume of traffic and the lower speeds would promote safety and comfort for older people. Older people are more likely to be confused by changes in their long-standing routines, which could easily happen in the case of a busy traffic environment. A huge majority of older people in West Yorkshire have witnessed their old age in the same locale where they were born and grew up. That being the reality, they might have a lot to reminisce about their childhood and working life while traveling around. It is an established practice among older people to see their friends in the local coffee shop at the town centre in every other few days and shop around together.

In Canada (Peel), while buses often run along major higher order roads, the adjacent residential areas are not always reached by the bus services. Roads are comparatively wide allowing high-speed traffic. Public buses often move along a straight line along the same road which often makes it necessary to change buses once or even multiple times to reach a nearby place. Consequently, on the one hand, older people cannot conveniently catch buses in their neighbourhood and on the other they might lose their comfortable familiarity and even become confused to change buses and to cross the streets. They might even lose control of their self and the environment. Peel region is known for its multicultural characteristics hosting different communities and cultural groups in its population. Especially in cases where interaction and exchange between different socio-cultural groups is not so intense, older people may not have a lot of friends with shared experiences to confide in within their neighbourhood. There are not so many places in Peel like town centres in the UK where older people would regularly meet up their friends and confide. Thus, it seems that a host of factors like physical and urban design, transport planning, and cultural geography make a lot of differences in older people’s mobility and social participation in their respective setting. Therefore, local spatial planners in Peel can learn from this observation and improve future planning to accommodate the need of older people.

The Centre for Elder Research is working with India Rainbow Community Services on
a project funded by the MH-LHIN looking at the health and community service use and service needs of older South Asian immigrants (age 65+) in Peel and Halton. We are
going to different community locations throughout March to conduct surveys. If you are
a community organization or a community group that would like to participate please contact Marta at: 


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