Elderly’s everyday travel as an effect of the pandemic. Understanding travel in Gothenburg from a capability and gender approach
People's everyday travel changed dramatically when the world was affected by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. One group that has been particularly affected by the pandemic, not least by limiting their social contacts or avoiding travel altogether, but also because of the high risk of becoming very ill, is elderly people. However, this is a group on which few qualitative studies have been carried out when it comes to their everyday travel during the pandemic. This study aims to increase understanding of everyday travel of elderly citizens in Gothenburg, during and after the pandemic, and as an effect of the pandemic. The thesis moreover aims to illuminate whether there is a gender dimension to how elderly citizens of Gothenburg make choices and adjustments in daily travel. Moreover, it aims to increase understanding of how this effect can contribute to sustainable mobility, and to identify learnings regarding adaptations of transport infrastructure to meet elderly citizens’ needs. The study is based on twelve semi-structured, in-depth interviews with elderly people between the ages of 65 and 91 who live in different parts of Gothenburg and either have access to a car or not. Results show that elderly people overall travel sustainably, with public transport being most respondents' primary means of travel before the pandemic. During the pandemic, travel decreased significantly and all respondents who had a car almost exclusively drove. All elderly people who had public transport as their primary mode of transport want to go back to it now after the pandemic, both because of economic and environmental factors. Some respondents cycle in the city and find it works well. However, both those who cycle and those who do not think that walking and cycling paths need to be improved and made safer if more elderly people are to continue cycling into old age. Public transport, on the other hand, is considered to be accessible and works well most of the time. The conclusions of the study are that 1) elderly citizens changed their travel during the pandemic where the car dominated but learned that they want to go back to a more sustainable and convenient travel where public transport, walking and cycling are the primary means of travel, 2) there are some differences in how elderly women and men reason when it comes to their own travel and their surroundings which is still important to consider in transport planning and 3) elderly people feel that Gothenburg's infrastructure is adapted and planned for a younger generation and see that walking and cycling paths, in particular, needs to be made safer and more accessible.