Driving to the doctor, the supermarket, to visit friends or just to see the change in seasons through Mother Nature’s eyes is something many of us take for granted.
When our senior loved ones no longer drive, whether they are no longer safe behind the wheel, choose to give up their keys, or can’t afford to own a car, they still need to get from one place to another.
How can they get to essential services like the grocery store or just to places that will help them enjoy life, like visiting friends or the ice cream shop, especially if they live in suburban or rural cities without a transportation infrastructure?
Not being able to get where they need to go or having to rely on family or friends to get there, can rob seniors of their independence and maybe even the ability to age in place.
Some who are lucky enough to live in a city that is walkable, with the places they need within safe walking distance, will be able to live independently without transportation worries.
Others may live in a city with accessible public transportation to help get them from here to there.
Many Seniors Need Alternative Transportation
Unfortunately, a large majority of community dwelling seniors have no access to public transportation or walkable city services and need to find a solution to meeting their needs without a car to rely on each day.
It is estimated that by the age of 75, 31% of seniors need to find alternative forms of transportation because they no longer drive.
There may be taxi cabs or senior bus services but these can be costly and inconvenient for some seniors.
Senior based transportation services are not always as reliable as needed and could result in missed appointments, especially if living in a rural area.
There is a way for our senior loved ones to get on the road again!
Yes, we are talking about Uber.
Mobile App Required
Do they have a smartphone or tablet?
Can they get the app or will they need some guidance from you or someone who helps them with this and other tech applications? Grandchildren can be great for this!
Once the app is installed and a quick tutorial about how to use it is completed, your senior loved one can become one of the estimated 40% of Uber riders who are seniors.
It has been reported that using the app to get a ride is growing among seniors and that those who are currently using it are teaching other seniors how to do it too!
A recent report from the Consumer Electronics Association indicates 46% of senior households have smartphones and 40% have tablets, so the number who could find a solution to their transportation quandary is growing.
How often seniors need a ride each week will vary but some may need at least one ride a day or even more, depending on how many appointments or errands they need outside their walking distance.
Be aware when you install the Uber app you will be asked to share your location (so they can find you), register using email and a password and you will need to set up a payment method for future use in order to be able to become a Uber rider.
You can get a ride estimate from where you are to where you want to go so you will be able to decide if that is the option for you. It will automatically charge your method of payment including a tip so no cash is needed.
Benefits of Uber for Seniors
Getting transportation that is easy to access and reliable for seniors who no longer drive can mean that they will be able to live independently a bit longer. Seniors can also enjoy their life knowing they aren’t at the mercy of public transportation or a senior van. On demand ridesharing is meeting the needs of many seniors and more to come.
How seniors benefit from ridesharing:
- Seniors can get a ride when they want it directly to and from where they want to go.
- Seniors don’t have to schedule a senior bus (paratransit) days ahead of their need.
- Seniors don’t have to stop at multiple stops picking and dropping off others on their way to their own destination when riding a senior bus.
- The rideshare car is reliable, sometimes the senior van is late or doesn’t arrive at all making the senior miss an appointment, an opportunity to visit friends or even miss a medication dosage when delayed.
- Seniors don’t want to burden their family members (at least not every time they need a ride).
- Seniors don’t want to rely on a taxicab that might show up or not when they need a ride, especially in an unfamiliar area or after dark.
- In general, an Uber ride costs less that a taxicab.
- Seniors don’t have to carry cash to pay for a ride, since they are charged via the app.
- In non-urban settings, there are many fewer options for seniors to get around. Uber is often found in areas where other public transportation is nonexistent.
A new wrinkle on the Uber market is that seniors who are retired and want a little something to do are becoming Uber drivers. They can earn a little extra money and do it when they want.
Uber has announced that they will provide free classes for seniors who want to connect to the technology required to get Uber rides. They have also agreed to provide free rides for seniors at specific senior centers and retirement communities in certain cities as part of some pilot program partnerships.
If your senior loved one has a disability that requires a little help to get into and out of the car, needs a wheelchair or other device, Uber ASSIST can be selected on the smartphone app that will give you a specially trained driver who can help your senior loved one with the transfer. They are also trained to handle and store their device.
Your senior just needs to select the ASSIST in the promotions section of the app. The cost of this special service is the same as a ride chosen from UberX.
There are other ridesharing services depending on the area of the country where your senior resides.
One rideshare service located in San Francisco, Lift Hero, is designed specifically for seniors. More rideshare services are available including Shuddle (for kids and seniors), Lyft and Sidecar.
Future of Transportation
What if some of our seniors live in an area of the country where there is no public transportation established (or it doesn’t go where they need to go) or there is no company running a ridesharing program?
Worse yet, they have no nearby family caregivers who can drive them to important destinations — or don’t want to rely on family?
There is one organization, actually a coalition called Transportation for America (T4 America), working to encourage the federal government to use tax dollars to create transportation systems that will work for everyone. T4 America believes the number of Americans who are aging in place will need an alternative transportation system to help them maintain their independence. Lacking a system to get where they have to and want to go will result in isolation, economic hardship and a reduced quality of life.
The Department of Transportation does provide some support for states to improve rural transit for seniors and people with disabilities but the need for rural public transportation is growing.
Metropolitan areas have begun to recognize and work toward meeting the mobility needs of seniors with improving public transportation access to buses, vans, jitneys, ridesharing, ferries, trains and also becoming walkable cities where pedestrians are safe to walk.
Suburban and rural locations will have to get creative with solutions that meet the needs of their seniors by adopting best practices, such as partnering with community organizations.
Hopefully all seniors in need will be able to gain access to some form of transportation to allow them to stay in the home and city of their dreams living independently and happily!