‘Mobility work’: Older adults' experiences using public transportation

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, mode - bus, ridership - old people, planning - surveys, planning - service improvement


Older adults, Public transportation, Mobility work, Accessibility, Qualitative


This paper contributes to research on public transport accessibility, disabling spaces, and older adult's mobility by highlighting the ‘mobility work’ older adults complete to meet their daily travel needs. Drawing on a systematic and inductive analysis of semi-structured interviews with older adult (65+ years of age) public transit users in Hamilton, Canada, we argue that older adults are faced with mobility work that younger and/or more able-bodied people do not routinely encounter as they meet (or attempt to meet) their daily travel needs using public transportation. Key components of older adults' trips that involve mobility work include walking to and from the bus stop, trip planning, stepping onto/ off of the bus, finding a seat, carrying items on the bus, calling a stop, and travelling in winter conditions. This mobility work can be categorized as physical (e.g., struggling to board the bus), emotional (e.g., worrying about getting a seat), or spatiotemporal (e.g., staying home when the weather is bad). Taken together, this paper puts forward a multidimensional concept of ‘mobility work’ to aid in considering accessibility at the scale of both the individual and the built environment. Further, by highlighting mobility work, this paper demonstrates the ways in which public transport spaces can be disabling for aging bodies and outlines concrete measures public transit agencies can take to make services more accessible to older adult riders.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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