Action Kit: Seniors / active aging advocates


Ensure that the design of initiatives for seniors, including active aging and healthy / walkable / livable cities, supports full community participation by persons with HMD, including the ability to use cars in order to be mobile.

Main message:

The number of seniors with hidden mobility disabilities (HMD) is growing, in part because limitations from underlying health conditions worsen with age. Community participation by seniors is directly linked to the accessibility of community facilities and events, but recent initiatives emphasize a design of pedestrian-only space with an ideal Walkability Index of 1,320 feet, more than 26 times further than a person with HMD can walk.

“If not for my car, I would never be able to get out. If I don’t know how far I will have to walk, I just don’t go.”

Seniors with HMD need design principles to address their activity limitations:

  • Short distances to walk:  35-50 feet, but no more than 70 feet.
  • Brief periods to stand:  1-2 minutes, but no more than 5 minutes.

Types of accommodation needed:

  • Pedestrian-only areas (like neighborhood centers) designed with no more than a 150-foot radius, with benches to rest every 50 feet.
  • Car use and parking close to services supported and protected.
  • See suggested accommodation guidelines.

Sample email:

Because of [the reasons for writing], I’m writing to share with you highlights of research on the lived experience of persons with hidden mobility disabilities – those who are able to walk but only a short distance and able to stand unsupported but only for a short time. The specific findings, which are detailed at are that:

  • Short distance = 35-50 feet, or at most 70 feet
  • Brief time = 1-2 minutes, or at most 5 minutes

Requirements to walk further or stand longer have serious health consequences and prevent persons with hidden mobility disabilities from engage in community activities.

Please share these findings with colleagues and other interested parties. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what changes you can effect to improve the ability of persons with HMD to participate fully and effectively in community life, particularly with regard to [the specific changes you are requesting].

Resources to use:

Examples of people to target:

  • Government staff responsible for seniors’ initiatives
  • Managers of senior centers
  • Community groups focusing on the participation of seniors