The needs of the aged are often a political football in disputes over transportation policy. On the one hand, defenders of low-cost parking and other car-oriented policies argue that older people all need cars because they can’t be bothered to walk. On the other hand, smart growth types argue that we will all be too old to drive someday, so we need to end the reign of car dependency.
One way of examining the issue is to find out whether seniors in fact drive more than everyone else. Happily, the 2016 American Community Survey comes to our rescue here. In Manhattan where I live, there are just over 129,000 senior-headed households with no car, and just over 36,000 with a vehicle available. So contrary to car-lobby conventional wisdom, only about 22 percent of senior-headed households have a car. How does that compare with other age groups? On the one hand, only about 25,000 out of 200,000, or 12 percent, of millennial-headed households (that is, households headed by someone under 35) have a vehicle. But among Manhattan households headed by persons between 35 and 64, about 28 percent (just over 109,000 out of just over 386,000) have a vehicle- more than senior-headed households, to my surprise.
So I rate the “Old People Need Cars” claim as Mostly False: most seniors here in Manhattan don’t have cars, even though they are more likely to own cars than millenials. On the other hand, the latter fact suggests that seniors are rarely physically incapable of using cars.