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What are the alternatives to driving in later life?

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.
5 min read
In this article
Cycling and walking Public transport and travel 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) also have a part to play here, as well as awareness of other road traffic. 

These days there are various different types of cycles available for all abilities – from bicycles to tricycles, pedal-powered to electrically-assisted.

Cycling UK encourages people of all ages and abilities to enjoy cycling. Their website provides lots of advice and information and you can also read inspiring stories about the positive impact of cycling for older people. Another organisation that promotes cycling opportunities for older and less-abled people is Cycling Without Age, an international movement that originated in Denmark.

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Public transport and travel 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. 

  • Older person’s bus pass: the age at which you can apply for a free older person's bus pass varies across the country; check with your local authority.
  • Senior railcard: provides discounted train tickets to anyone aged 60 or over.
  • London Freedom Pass: allows older people free travel across London and free local bus journeys in other parts of the country. The age at which you become eligible is tied to your state pension age. You can check eligibility on the London Councils website.
  • 60+ London Oyster card: if you’re aged over 60, live in London and don’t qualify for a Freedom Pass, you can apply for a 60+ London Oyster photocard. This allows free travel on buses, tubes, trains and trams in London.
  • Please offer me a seat: Transport for London (TfL) has 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.
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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.

London Taxicard scheme

If you live in London, the London Taxicard scheme provides subsidised transport for people with serious mobility problems who find it difficult to use public transport. It is funded by the London boroughs and TfL and managed by London Councils on their behalf.

You are automatically eligible for a Taxicard if you:

  • Receive the Higher Rate Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance  (DLA)
  • Receive 8 points or more for the Moving Around Activity component of the Personal Independence Payment
  • Are registered severely sight impaired or blind (not partially sighted)
  • Receive a War Pension Mobility Supplement
  • Receive the Armed Forces Independence Payment (mobility element).

In some boroughs there are additional eligibility criteria. For more details on eligibility, check the Taxicard FAQs on the London Council’s website. 

If you are not in one of the above categories, you may still be eligible. But you’ll need to complete an application form and provide medical evidence. You may be required to have a mobility assessment.

To apply for the scheme, you must fill in an application form for the London borough in which you live. Visit the application page on the London Council’s website. There is also information about the number of trips you are eligible for each year and the maximum fare you should pay.

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 provide continued freedom and independence for people with impaired mobility who can no longer drive a car. Find out more about choosing the right mobility scooter.

Further reading

Getting a needs assessment

A needs assessment is key to getting the support you need. You have a right to this assessment and it's free of charge.

Benefits for older people

Read about the benefits available in later life: Attendance Allowance, PIP, Winter Fuel Payment and more.

Last updated: 08 Sep 2020