Mobility Moments Podcast: Embedded at the Mackinac Policy Conference with AARP Michigan

Driven - Mobility Moment: Paula Cunningham and Melissa Seifert, AARP Michigan Driven - Mobility Moment: Paula Cunningham and Melissa Seifert, AARP Michigan Driven - Mobility Moment: Paula Cunningham and Melissa Seifert, AARP Michigan

We say this again and again, and probably because it's true. Connected and autonomous cars will have a huge impact on all of us, but most of all on those who struggle with transportation, like seniors, and eventually that will be all of us. So, what are the issues regarding seniors, technology and mobility?

To find out, I'm digging in with Paula Cunningham and Melissa Seifert from AARP Michigan here at the Mackinac Policy Conference in advance of their panel discussion called, "The Future is Now. Are You Ready?"

Thanks for joining me for Driven's Mobility Moments Podcast: Embedded at the Mackinac Policy Conference. I'm Claire Charlton.

Seniors who can't get to the library or to the store, or to the doctor, they miss out on so much more than the rest of us.

Melissa Seifert:
We have a lot of seniors who have isolation problems where they can't get out, and that just leads to more physical problems, more mental problems, and all those issues.

That was Melissa Seifert. As associate state director of government affairs with AARP Michigan, Seifert lobbies and advocates for our seniors. Transportation is a hot topic for her, as well as for her colleague, Paula Cunningham, who is the state director at AARP Michigan. They know that technology that drives the future of mobility is here right now.

Paula Cunningham:
Absolutely. The technology is here. It's here right now. We all know about it, we read about it, we hear about it. What we don't always talk about is the impact it's going to have on all generations, but particularly on this generation and on intergenerational ... older adults, their children, caregivers, people ... just transportation going to and from the doctor's office, going to and from the grocery store.

Transportation technology is an intergenerational issue for a couple of key reasons. First, because seniors who can't get around on their own rely on younger family members to give them a ride. So, what does this mean?

Paula Cunningham:
The other side of that, too, is if you stop and think about if they don't use that technology, then they're usually dependent on someone else to help them out. That can be the grand-daughter, grandson, or a child, or son or daughter, or whatever. This technology not only helps the older person who might need help, but it helps the caregiver as well.

The statistics surrounding healthcare transportation are truly surprising, Cunningham explains.

Paula Cunningham:
The survey that we just took, the caregiving survey, we just got the results from it yesterday, or a day or two ago. I think it's something like 63 percent of those surveyed, over 1,000 people surveyed, are at least 30 minutes away from real quality healthcare. I mean, that doesn't sound like a lot. When you break it down more, there are like 40-something percent that's at least an hour away, and that's with 1,000 from all over. When you segment that list to look at geographic areas, that number absolutely goes up.

It eventually goes up based on where it is geographically. If you need healthcare ... it's an hour round trip, let's just say the very minimum, an hour round trip for someone, and then you have to take off work, you have to take that person to wherever they're going to go, it becomes a challenge, in terms of employers, in terms of productivity in the workplace, in terms of access to quality care. It impacts all parts of someone's livelihood.

Melissa Seifert:
That's why we're advocating so strongly for tele-health and expansion of broadband.

For seniors who want to get around for day to day stuff, the age of ride-sharing and mobility as a service is a boon, but it's not available if seniors don't know how to use the technology. For that, we turn to AARP for free educational programming.

Melissa Seifert:
So, we know that a lot of boomers are using their iPhones, or using apps, or using technology to actually make their lives easier, but I do believe there's a digital divide between do they know what the app is, do they know how to use those resources? I think a lot of it is lack of knowledge, lack of education, but really there's an appetite for them.
They want to make their lives easier, they want to use technology, but I think there's a little bit of a disconnect as far as educating on what that app is, educating on what that looks like. AARP has a great program called "TEK": Technology, Education and Knowledge, where we actually are going out in the community and showing them how to use Facebook, showing them how to use different apps, showing them all these different resources that are going to make their lives a lot easier and more efficient for them.

Paula Cunningham:
Free program!

Another reason mobility is intergenerational is that at the end of the day senior problems aren't just senior problems, they're everybody problems.

Melissa Seifert:
I think that's one of the frustrations is that when we go back to this conversation is that they're constantly focusing on senior and mobility issues, but if you have a community where you can't get to a grocery store, where you can't get access to healthcare, where you can't do anything.

Melissa Seifert:
I will have the same problems as an adult with two kids, or as-

Paula Cunningham:
As a single adult.

Melissa Seifert:
Exactly, and that's the frustration, is that we need to have these communities that are thriving, that are economically selling. You need that whole spectrum going back to what we originally talked about.

So, the big question is, from a policy perspective, how well are we meeting our seniors' transportation needs in suburban Michigan, in rural Michigan, in urban Michigan, on a scale of one to 10?

Melissa Seifert:
Negative 10.

So clearly we have some work to do, and that's why policy-level conversations and action are so important. Overall, the future is now panel discussion focused on mobility, on broadband access, and on tech-based data-driven alternatives for seniors like tele-health. But what else is AARP advocating for?

Paula Cunningham:
The state of New York just declared the entire state as an age-friendly community. The state of Massachusetts has just declared the entire state as age-friendly. Those are the only two in the country right now that the entire state ... The Governor, just this year, declared them as age-friendly. AARP Michigan will be launching this assembler effort wanting the next Governor to declare the state of Michigan as age-friendly, with specific steps of how to do that.

It's not a dollars and cents piece at all. It really isn't. It's not as much about that as it is about reallocation of existing funds to make the communities more livable for everybody. It just depends. We're not in Massachusetts, we're not in New York, so there's not one state that we can replicate, but there are best practices that we can take from a variety of states that are doing some
wonderful things.

Thanks so much for joining me for this episode of Driven's Mobility Moments podcast, embedded at the Mackinaw Policy Conference. If you enjoyed this podcast, please take some time to rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Remember to visit Driven at DetroitDriven.us to learn how the Detroit region is leading the world in next generation mobility. I am Claire Charlton. See you again soon.
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