Transport and mobility

Mobility was extremely important for the people we spoke with. There was a range of ways in which people facilitated their mobility, such as having a walker, a scooter, a car or access to public transport. As people aged or had health problems which impacted on their ability to get around, mobility aids were indispensable for daily living. Mobility aids include walking frames, wheeled walkers or walking sticks. They were commonly used by people in their 80s and 90s but they were also important for people across a range of ages. For those who used them, having a walker facilitated their independence and helped them feel safer on their feet.

Lorna uses her wheeled walker for everything and feels that it helps her stay independent.

Shirley and Brian H cannot walk far without assistance. While Shirley can no longer go on bushwalks, she is thankful she has a walker so she can go places like the museum.
Some people pointed out the negative aspects of using a walker because they can be heavy and cumbersome. They also spoke about the ways in which they are treated differently when using their walker in public places (see Attitudes of others). Both Val and Robyn found their lack of mobility and use of a walker ‘demoralising’.

Robyn hates being reliant on a walker and feels it disempowers her.

Scooters were another helpful mobility aid which often replaced a car when people were no longer able to drive. However, scooters can be awkward in small spaces such as supermarket aisles and cannot go far before they need to be recharged.

Jack’s scooter has replaced his motorbike. He has found he can bring his scooter on the train and travel through country Victoria.
Being able to drive a car was extremely important for some people we spoke with. People who were still driving spoke about the independence this afforded them. Those who were not able to drive reflected on how dependent they were on friends, family, taxis and home care services to go places or do the simplest of things. Earl and Elaine both likened the thought of losing their license to having a limb removed.

Leonie is glad she can still drive as she does not have family and cannot rely on anybody else to drive her.

People we spoke with were aware of their limits. If they did not feel confident driving they would let their partner drive, they would avoid traffic or would not drive long distances. Another reason people chose not to drive was the difficulty they experienced finding a parking spot. The requirements for an annual medical and practical driving test for people over 70 years vary across States and Territories in Australia. While participants saw these tests as a ‘pain,’ they were mostly accepted as a sensible idea.

Val has always believed old people should undergo regular driving tests, but when the test was recently introduced in the Northern Territory she says ‘it hurts’ and she hopes she will pass.

Several men we spoke with said that not driving was okay with them. Richard no longer looks forward to driving for the joy of it, and while Hans used to drive a beautiful MG he feels he needs to forget about cars. Brian X explains that if he cannot drive in the years to come it is something he will just have to accept.

Brian X accepts that he may have to give up his license. It takes a lot longer to get anywhere on public transport but he says he has plenty of time.

Public transport was an important way to get around for some younger seniors. They appreciated the reduced ticket price and recent improvements such as the trams being level with the platform. The negative aspects of public transport include being unreliable, not safe at night and too crowded in peak hour.

Accessing free public transport is important for Edith to do her voluntary work but she does not feel safe going out at night.

Some people with limited mobility could not manage public transport. Len cannot walk to the bus stop and relies heavily on his car. Hans does not drive and is dependent on home care services to do his fortnightly shopping. People with severe mobility problems could not physically get into a car. In these cases they needed ambulance transport services to get to outpatient appointments.

At the age of 89 Hans cannot drive or take public transport. He is pragmatic about his lack of mobility and is happy to use the home care services available to him.

People who lived within a short walking distance to a variety of shops and amenities found it extremely useful in their older years. Barrie is worried about new housing developments which are attractive for older people who are downsizing but are not close to any transport networks or shopping centres (see [Housing](../experience-ageing/housing)).

Barrie emphasises the importance of transport for having social contact, and the difficulties people have relying on each other when they have a decreasing circle of friends.

International and interstate travel was important for some people, particularly those in their 60s and 70s. This became harder, however, with increasing age and as physical mobility became more restricted. Some people in their 80s and 90s were no longer interested in travelling while others tried new forms of travel they had never experienced such as a cruise. For example, Richard had never enjoyed tours because they ‘confine your mobility’. However, he and his wife recently decided to explore Indo China and joined a tour group, which made the process much easier.