For millions of older people, travelling by car is not an option. But there’s a host of other ways of getting from A to B and to enjoy significant discounts along the way.
Now the advice website www.myageingparent.com has created a handy guide to public transport, including assistance and concessions available for those wanting to get out and about.
“Far too often you read or hear misguided criticism of the fact that older people receive travel concessions,” says the website’s Deborah Stone. “But for many, public transport is a lifeline , which keeps them mentally and physically active and combats elderly loneliness. Without concessions, a great many would be housebound and socially isolated, impacting upon their wellbeing and adding to the nation’s health bill. What is also often forgotten is that when seniors do travel they often spend money in the shops or on leisure activities – boosting the local economy.”
So what are the main ways of getting about – and what concessions are available?
On the buses…
Older people are entitled to a minimum concession of free off-peak travel on a local bus anywhere in England, and all day at weekends and public holidays. The age qualification for a bus pass has become rather complicated in recent years. But a simple way to remember it is that – for both men and women in England – it coincides with the (currently rising) State Pension Age of women. In Wales and Scotland, being 60 still qualifies you.
Some services are not covered by this provision, including tourist and temporary services, but a number of councils offer further concessions: for example, on trams or rail travel, or travel during peak hours, but these will only apply in this local authority area.
More information is available here: www.gov.uk/apply-for-elderly-
On track for rail savings…
The Senior Railcard (www.senior-railcard.co.uk) is hugely popular and allows those aged 60 and over to travel at one third off the normal price (except some peak time journeys in and around London). Booking well in advance and being prepared to travel at quieter times can make the journey even cheaper. A Senior Railcard costs £30 a year, which can often be recouped in the first one or two journeys – or £70 for three years. A Railcard also entitles you to discounts at some hotels and tourist attractions.
Train companies can provide special arrangements for disabled, or mobility-impaired passengers. For example, they may be able to arrange for staff to help your parent get off the train when they get to their destination, or when you have to change trains. You will need to contact the train company as far in advance as possible, and at least 24 hours before the journey.
Hit the road…
Coach travel is also a big hit with many older people, especially as it is often cheaper than going by rail and it connects a wider range of locations. Many coach operators will also provide assistance for disabled people, although seven days’ notice is usually required.
However, many coaches are not accessible to some disabled people, because they have steps or will not carry wheelchairs. Facilities for those with disabilities also vary between coach stations and you or your parent should check with your travel agent, or the coach company what facilities are available at both ends of the journey and along the way.
The biggest operator (www.nationalexpress.com) offers a Senior Coachcard, with a third off fares in return for an annual £10. Other special deals are also available , including even cheaper fares on fares on Tuesdays, when you book three days in advance, and a range of offers at hotels, restaurants, attractions, theatres and garden centres.
For elderly, disabled people who cannot use the bus service due to difficulties with access, Taxicard schemes have been set up on a local basis by some councils. They offer a number of concessionary taxi journeys each year.
A capital way to save more…
If you live in London and are aged 60 or over, you can apply for a 60+ London Oyster photocard to travel free on the bus, tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services within London. When you pass the age where women would qualify for a State Pension, this is then transferred to a Freedom Pass.
“Getting out and about is something that the majority of us take for granted,” concludes Deborah. “The concessions available on public transport enable older people to do the same – and play a big part in keeping them socially engaged.”
Read more about public ransport for older people here