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What are the alternatives to driving?

Giving up your car keys can feel as though you’re losing your sense of independence, but there are alternative options, depending on your physical ability. We take you through what’s available.
4 min read
In this article
Cycling and walking Public transport and concessions Community transport
Taxis and minicabs Car sharing Mobility 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 there is now a greater network of cycle paths. And the old saying is definitely true: you never forget how to ride a bike! However, do consider whether you will be safe in the saddle and on the road – health issues (such as balance and eyesight) have a part to play here as well, as well as awareness of other road traffic.

 

Cyclorama is an online cycling website 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/tube or tram. For longer journeys between towns and cities, 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 can enjoy reading a book or taking in the scenery.

 

Bus, train and most coach travel will usually offer some price 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, although some concessions may not be available at peak commuter times, for example.

 

The Age UK website provides useful information regarding these concessions.

 

Transport for London (TFL) has launched a badge scheme for people with hidden disabilities. Similar to their ‘Baby on Board’ badges, these badges say ‘Please offer me a seat’ and are available from TFL.

 

Community transport

 

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

  • 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 (often available within larger shopping centres).


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

Taxis and minicabs

Taxis and minicabs wouldn’t 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 with all the expenses involved in running a car of their own.

 

Ask local 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 living 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 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.

 

It’s also worth being aware that a Blue Badge disabled parking permit can be used in any vehicle as long as the badge holder is present.

 

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 in Which?.Home & garden.

 

Further reading

Getting a needs assessment

A needs assessment is crucial to getting the care support you need. Read our guidance for how to get one.

Benefits for older people

There is a range of benefits available in later life, including Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, ...

Last updated: 18 Sep 2018