This chapter argues for an understanding of connectivity through mobility by elders living in rural areas that goes beyond the traditional transport planning focus on the supply of and demand for transport services. This involves consideration of not just physical movement, but also all the other ways in which older people can be ‘mobile’ for connectivity and the wider benefits and meanings mobility brings, for example, video-calling grandchildren using computer software, finding out about shopping delivery services for use in bad weather or compiling a scrapbook about a past alpine holiday. Following a brief review of methods, a conceptual framework for mobility that can be applied across the life course is presented. The following section applies this framework as a context to understanding some of the key mobility policy and practice challenges for the promotion of the connectivity of rural elders, which relate to the availability of mobility options – cars in particular – and the associated issues of accessibility and mobility-linked social exclusion. It is concluded that the more holistic appraisal of mobility for older citizens brings important conceptual benefits. A picture emerges of rural areas being ‘car-intensive’, but less car-dependent than identified in previous studies, with accessibility for connectivity also relatively unproblematic for the majority, although with minorities representing important exceptions. Practical relevance is drawn out for planning and urban design, as well as for health and social care professionals.
The analysis draws on the quantitative survey described in Chapter One and two qualitative data-collection activities conducted specifically for the mobility and transport study that was part of the Grey and Pleasant Land (GaPL) project: 45 semi-structured interviews, for which the participants were selected to represent a range of mobility lifestyles; and 10 phenomenological interviews, with participants selected according to varying health and mobility statuses.
The GaPL survey contained a series of mobility-related questions that addressed travel patterns and behaviours, mode choice (including over time), and whether mobility played a role in either exclusion from, or engagement with, the local community. Participants in the semi-structured interviews were mostly recruited from volunteers identified through the quantitative survey, but due to the low representation in the quantitative survey sample of a particular group of interest (people who had recently given up car-driving), seven further participants were recruited from outside of the quantitative survey sample.