Giving up car keys can feel like giving up so much more: a sense of independence, the part of a daily routine or aspects of one's social life. Here we explore alternative modes of transport.

With a little research you may find that a number of good and realistic alternatives, depending on physical ability, are available in your relative's area – some offering benefits such as the improved health that can result from walking more.

On this page you can find information on:

1. Cycling and walking
2. Public transport and concessions
3. Community transport
4. Taxis and minicabs
5. Car sharing
6. Scooters and powered wheelchairs

Cycling and walking

Cycling and walking are both great ways for able older people to get regular, non-strenuous exercise – and the benefits aren't just physical. It’s sometimes surprising how much being outdoors, even for short periods of time, can give a real lift to the spirits.

For people who haven’t cycled for a while, getting back in the saddle can be fun. And the old saying is definitely true: you never forget how to ride a bike!

Cyclorama is an online cycling magazine with lots of interesting articles, including this one about cycling for older people. There is also an overview of all the different types of cycles available – from bicycles to tricycles, pedal-powered to electrically-assisted.

Public transport and concessions

Public transport isn’t always perfect, but most of the UK’s towns and cities have a fairly good network of public transport routes, whether bus, local train or tube, or even tram. For longer journeys, coaches are a relatively low-cost option; trains are usually faster but more expensive. Compared with driving, either option can be enjoyably stress-free - being a passenger means someone else is doing the hard work while you enjoy reading a good book.

Buses, train and most coach travel will usually be priced with some concessions for older people. The qualifying age differs between operators and areas, as does the level of concession; some types of journey may be entirely free, while others will be offered at a discount, though some concessions may not be available at peak commuter times, for example.

The Age UK website provides useful information regarding these concessions. To find information regarding public transport options in your local area, the Transport Direct website can be a starting point.

Community transport

‘Community transport’ is a term used to cover a wide range of transport options. It is typically run by the voluntary sector for the local community and on a not-for-profit basis. Community transport varies by region, but may include:

  • Social car schemes: these are operated by volunteers driving their own cars.
  • Community buses: these are minibuses that regularly travel set routes to a timetable, picking up members of the local community.
  • Community or group transport: usually minibuses that take community groups to specific destinations (such as a social club or lunch club) to enhance a strong, active and vibrant community.
  • Dial-a-Ride: minibuses or accessible cars operated for certain individuals in their local community to improve active independence, quality and choice.
  • Shopmobility: a wheelchair or scooter loan service for individuals with mobility problems.

The GOV.UK website provides a search function to help you find community transport in your local area.

Taxis and minicabs

Taxis and minicabs would not be the cheapest solution for anyone looking to make long or frequent journeys. However, for many older people who previously used a car only a few times each week, perhaps to visit shops or nearby friends, taxis can be a cost-effective means of getting around compared to all the expenses involved in running a car of their own.

Ask friends or neighbours to recommend a taxi or minicab firm with a good reputation, and ensure that the firm knows in advance of any specific requirements or conditions such as a disability. Using the same firm time and again will allow the company to get to know your requirements.

If your relative lives in London, the London Taxicard Scheme provides subsidised transport for people with serious mobility problems who find it difficult to use public transport. To find out more, go to this page of the London Councils website.

Car sharing

Family members, friends and neighbours may be able to offer lifts. For example, it may be that a neighbour makes regular trips into town and has a free space in their car. People receiving the lifts could offer to help out with the cost of petrol or parking.

Mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs

Mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs can mean continued freedom and independence for people with impaired mobility who can no longer drive a car. To find out more, see Choosing the right mobility scooter.

More information

Page last reviewed: 31 January 2016
Next review due: 31 August 2017