Throughout my years immersed in gerontology, it is apparent that our society has medicalized aging to an extent that people are living longer in both healthy and not-so-healthy conditions. We look to further fix this by continuing to search for more treatments to illnesses and intervene clinically. From my experiences, more holistic approaches to address our ecosystem's flaws can support needs such as social isolation and transportation that are often unaddressed. The most important part of this work happens when we break down our silos to speak a common language which results in common goals.
The world of New Mobility--integrating infrastructure & technology to provide multimodal, door-to-door, seamless transport services-- offers an opportunity to craft mobility solutions for communities that are not supported by current means. I entered this world with an aging framework, but quickly identified the equity and access issues that approaches facilitating better public-private partnerships, open data initiatives, and Smart City infrastructure can work to solve.
Aging communities in urban areas, similar to millennial, are showing less concern with owning a single occupancy vehicle, and wish instead to live in areas where goods, services, and other aspects of their communities are readily accessible. However, in many regions, current infrastructure and environmental design severely limit how well people can move from place to place. My work in this world not integrates social work competencies, but creates a pipeline for future social workers to infiltrate this industry.
Autonomous Vehicles & Smart Infrastructure
Autonomous vehicles and all things considered (vehicle-to-vehicle services, vehicle-to-infrastructure services...) seem like a space race where industry leaders are attempting to disrupt a system that has incredible potential, yet should not be rushed in its implementation. Leaders are pushing for policy changes that will facilitate this implementation with promises of collective saftey and the ability to support older adults and people experiencing disabilities.
Yes, vehicles that can communicate with each other and their infrastructure can lead to safer streets and support our most vulnerable communities. I agree that autonomous systems have the potential fill current gaps in our mobility systems. However, professionals trained in working with aging communities and people experiencing disabilities and most of all, professionals trained in ethics are missing from autonomous design tables. These reasons and many more have pushed me to infiltrate these spaces. Ageism within design is more than apparent, if you have ever helped an elder through a grocery store, or use a walker on a sidewalk. When systems and innovations intended to serve aging communities perpetuate ageist ideas, designing without gerontologists will only continue to do just this.