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Travel challenges of older people depicted in poetry on buses

Posted on 9 January 2017

A collaboration between researchers at the University of York and award-winning poet, Anna Woodford, has resulted in city buses displaying poems that depict the travel challenges of older and disabled people.

Anna, who is the research project’s poet in residence, has written a series of poems that will be displayed inside First York buses across the city this month.

The poems convey a series of key messages to raise awareness of the problems encountered by older and disabled people, and to encourage people to think about the travel needs of fellow passengers.

Project lead, Dr Mark Bevan, from the University’s Centre for Housing Policy, said: “We’ve worked with around a hundred people in later life, listening to their needs and learning about the day-to-day challenges they face, especially after a big change in their lives such as starting to live with a sensory impairment or giving up driving.

“Participants discussed many of the things that would help improve their travel experience, and this included raising awareness amongst service providers and the wider public of the diverse travel needs of people in later life.”

The project, called ‘Poetry in Motion’, was born out of a three-year research programme that explored the links between mobility and wellbeing.  

One of the key findings of the research, called Co-Motion, was that older and disabled people were not only concerned about physical barriers to travelling, but also about behaviours and attitudes amongst service providers and the wider general public. 

Anna said: “The research findings were my inspiration for the poems people will see on city buses.  Many of the things that older and disabled people find difficult are often very simple daily travel actions that most of us don’t even think twice about.  

“Parking your car on the pavement instead of fully on the road or using priority seating on public transport, are just some of the things study participants cited as being a challenge.

“The aim of Poetry in Motion is to encourage people to think differently about how they travel and the needs of others.” 

Mobile app

The Co-Motion project also developed ‘Walking for Well-Being’, a prototype mobile app that makes it easier to plan walking routes, as well as a prototype mobility scooter attachment incorporating sensors that measure the quality of the user’s journey. 

Rachel Benn, Business Delivery Manager at First York, said: “We are proud to support our local communities, and when we heard about this project, we were keen to help raise awareness of this important research.”

“As well as showcasing Anna’s poetry, we also offer Safer Journey Cards for customers to use on board our services, which are cards that can be passed to our drivers to discreetly communicate a request for assistance.”

Further information:

The Co-Motion project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC); and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), is in partnership with the University of Leeds; Newcastle University; Northumbria University; and the Bradford Institute for Health Research.

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