Rural America is a collection of iconic landscapes, essential industries, and close-knit communities distributed across a land mass so vast it represents 97 percent of the United States. A century ago it was home to half the of all Americans; today, only about 15 percent.
As its population has gotten smaller, rural America has also become challenging to navigate. For millions of people in small towns and remote areas, whether their destination is the grocery store, the beauty parlor, the hospital, or the polls, the question, “How will I get there?” can be complicated.
Mobility—the power to move and travel as we wish—is a huge factor in our health and quality of life, particularly as we get older. Some advocates view it as a basic human right. Almost one quarter of all older Americans (about 10 million), call rural communities home. They share the nearly universal desire to age in place, but their ability to do so hinges on mobility. Without good mobility options, older people face elevated risks of social isolation, depression, gaps in medical care, and malnutrition.