This study contributes to the literature on mobility and wellbeing at older ages. Taking London as a case study, where older citizens have free access to a relatively extensive and accessible public transport network, particularly the bus service, we explore the various mechanisms that link this entitlement (the ‘Freedom Pass’) to determinants of wellbeing. Apart from the ways in which free bus travel enabled access to those goods and services that are essential to health, the Freedom Pass provided a number of less tangible, but equally significant benefits. Travelling by bus provided myriad opportunities for meaningful social interaction. Travelling as part of the ‘general public’ provided both a sense of belonging and visibility in the public arena, providing a socially acceptable way of tackling chronic loneliness. The Freedom Pass was described as both a ‘lifeline’, providing access to essential goods and services for wellbeing, but also, for many, a ‘lifestyle’, a widely prized mechanism for enabling a good quality of life in the city. In the context of good public transport provision, driving cessation had fewer negative connotations for older people’s mobility than reported in other studies. We argue that the mechanisms linking mobility and wellbeing are culturally, materially and politically specific: in contexts where good, accessible public transport is available as a right, and bus travel is not stigmatised, it is understood as a major contributor to wellbeing, rather than a transport choice of last resort.
- Bus travel