Travel by Older Adults

Travel by Older Adults

Older U.S. residents do not travel as often or as far as do younger people but rely as heavily on personal vehicles,1 according to data collected by the 2001 National Household Travel Survey [1]. Americans aged 65 and older, for instance, took 89 percent of their daily trips2 in personal vehicles while people between the ages of 19 and 64 used personal vehicles 90 percent of the time (figure 5-15). Overall, older adults made 10 percent of the 411 billion daily trips people took in 2001 and 8 percent of the 2.6 billion long-distance trips3 [2].

People aged 65 years and older tend to travel at different times than do those 19 to 64 years old (figure 5-16). Older adults take 55 percent of their daily trips between 10 am and 4 pm. The trips of younger people peak three times a day, between 7 am and 8 am (6 percent of trips), between noon and 1 pm (8 percent), and between 5 pm and 6 pm (8 percent).

Among older men and women, women tend to be less mobile. In their daily travel, they take fewer trips per day (3 trips vs. 4 trips for men), travel shorter distances (10 miles vs. 27 miles),4 and are more likely to report medical conditions that limit their travel (26 percent vs. 20 percent). Fewer women also say they are drivers (72 percent) than do men (90 percent). These gender differences are not necessarily unique to the older population, however. For instance, all women travel 17 miles in their daily travel, while men travel 29 miles, based on mean distances [2].

Older men and women take long-distance trips at about the same rates and show a strong preference for using personal vehicles (figure 5-17). While older men and women take an equal percentage of their trips by air, older women show a stronger preference than men for bus travel.


1. U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, NHTS: Highlights of the 2001 National Household Travel Survey (Washington, DC: 2003).

2. D.V. Collia, J. Sharp, and L. Giesbrecht, “The 2001 National Household Travel Survey: A Look Into the Travel Patterns of Older Americans,” Journal of Safety Research 34 (2003).

1 Personal vehicles are cars, vans, sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, other trucks, recreational vehicles (not including watercraft), and motorcycles.

2 Daily trips in the National Household Travel Survey are those taken on a specific day, traveling from one address to another.

3 Long-distance trips are those of 50 miles or more from home to the farthest destination traveled and return.

4 Trips and miles traveled are based on mean number of trips and distance, rather than averages.