American Airports: No Place For Old People

American Airports Failing In Plain Sight


SAN-SFO-AUS-DFW-DCA-IAD are a few airports I’m familiar with that make no attempt to meet the growing needs of America’s aging society.

Age Friend Communities

With over 65 million Americans in the retirement pool and 10,000 Americans turning age 65 every day for the next 15 years, airports seem to be ignoring the writing on the wall. America’s older adults are getting older and will continue to travel. They also need some accommodation to the existing infrastructure of airports.

Why does age matter? Research shows older adults today are healthier today and living longer than previous generations. However, an increase in life expectancy has also been accompanied by an increase in living with chronic conditions and mobility limitations. How can we help airports become Age Friendly? By talking openly and often about their current lack of accessibility and offering solutions.

Age Friendly Airports

With each flight I look at airport design with three principles in mind.

Hearing – Are the messages delivered over the public address systems easily understood?

Site –  Are the signs clear and easy to read? Especially from a distance?

Mobility – Are gates within walking distance, (less than a 1/4 of a mile)? Are there benches easily accessible to minimize standing at security checkpoints?

My unscientific findings? No concessions have been made for an aging society in any airport. Not the answer I wanted and one that deserves my attention and voice. Each time I travel I plan to document my observations and recommendations and like every good researcher code it with the age friendly skies (1)

I’m asking you to become a citizen researcher and join me on this project. The next time you catch a flight share your own observations and recommendation and use the #flyagefriendly.

Cheers to reimagining United’s slogan to “Fly the Age
Friendly skies!”


Aging expert and gerontologist Judi Bonilla is an advocate for empowered aging with over 15 years of experience in senior issues. She is a serial entrepreneur and has launched several startups including: Brain Fit Now! Encore 101 HQ and We Get Around! The adult education startups emphasize “empowerment”– blending information, education, and actionable strategies.