We all know the importance of getting where you want to go when you want (and need) to go to our sense of independence and freedom.
Imagine if you are an older adult trying to get to the doctor or pharmacy to get essential prescription medications but you can’t get there.
For our senior loved ones, it isn’t that same as a joy ride in the country to view the fall leaves or going to the ice cream shop for an ice-cold treat. It’s your life and health.
Accessible transportation – or the lack thereof – is important to seniors’ ability to successfully age in place.
Depending on others for a ride when they need it, including family caregivers or senior transportation that can be undependable, isn’t a perfect solution for many seniors. In some instances, paying for transportation to get basic needs met is out of reach for many older adults.
What is the solution?
For many seniors, ridesharing companies that have spread like wildfire across the nation can help them do what needs to be done and more.
Impact of Ridesharing
It is estimated that in 2015, 54% of seniors had difficulty accessing transportation, even in cities such as New York with wide ranging public transportation systems. In fact, 40% of rural people (37 million) living in 1,200 counties across the nation have no public transportation.
It is amazing to learn that as many as 20% of seniors (nearly 7 million people) over 65 don’t drive at all.
One solution to this problem is exploring how ridesharing can fill the void providing seniors with dependable transportation.
A study by AARP found that 20% of seniors over 75 use ridesharing and 40% of those over 85 do as well.
In collaboration with United Healthcare, the AARP Foundation gave a $1 million grant to Keck Medicine of USC to test the impact of providing free Lyft rides on the health of elderly USC patients within the greater Los Angeles area.
Researchers showed how unlimited free Lyft rides (ridesharing) can improve seniors’ quality of life by 90%. The research was part of a pilot program between Lyft and the University of Southern California Center for Body Computing, which studied and connected senior citizens with this form of transportation.
Seniors in the study were tracked using a wearable device to determine their behavior. They used a smartphone app or were able to call for a ride. All the seniors had transportation barriers and lived alone.
Benefits to Seniors Demonstrated
Given unlimited free access for three months, the older adults averaged taking a ride daily. They showed an increase of 35% in out of the home activity over the time studied. Not only did they go to medical appointments but began socializing, visiting friends and engaging in the community. 74% reported an increase in social visits.
An added bonus, 97% of the respondents reported getting more comfortable with the technology, actually ‘embracing’ it, and were using smartphones with apps at the end of the study.
The cost of the rides averaged about $400 per month, which is more than many seniors could afford, according to researchers. Lyft promises more partnerships to meet the needs of elders and to determine how best to meet these needs economically.
It’s true that millions of older adults miss their scheduled doctor appointments due to lack of transportation according to these researchers. But, more importantly, the lack of independence and mobility to move around their communities for any reason inhibits a senior’s quality of life.
Socialization is a key determinant of successful aging in place. Staying home and not interacting with others because of inaccessible transportation can negatively impact seniors’ lives.
Obstacles and Solutions for Seniors to Hail a Rideshare
Many seniors struggle to connect with ridesharing companies because they are unable, untrained, or unwilling to use an app to call for a ride.
Some seniors, especially rural ones, may not have broadband service or a smartphone yet.
Others may not be comfortable using an app or remember how to do it. Some seniors still shy away from this technology in case they should ‘break’ it. Others are fearful of security breaches with an app like this.
It is up to family caregivers to help facilitate this process and help senior loved ones get connected with ridesharing.
Older adults don’t have to use a smartphone to call a ride. Both the major ridesharing companies can be called using a computer instead of a smartphone app. Family caregivers can set up a computer to be used to get a ride, show the senior how to do it, and establish an account for them.
Lyft Concierge has made it possible to get a ride using the telephone, with no need for a smartphone or a computer. They have partnered with community-based companies to provide rides. For many seniors, picking up the phone and making a call to get a ride may give them more confidence than using an app or the computer. These rides can be on demand or scheduled for appointments.
Caregivers near or far can also call to set up rides for their senior loved ones using this program. Payment is made via credit card so no money is required.
Ridesharing Changes Lives
Ridesharing companies are working together with senior living communities to make ridesharing more accessible for seniors. If your older adult is in a facility, you may want to discuss connecting your senior with this service.
Helping seniors remain as independent as possible and engaged in the community by focusing efforts on obtaining adequate transportation services unquestionably will improve the quality of their aging in place experience.
This will ultimately benefit family caregivers too!