Just because your elderly loved one has more years behind them than you do, it doesn’t mean they don’t love their independence!
But there comes a point when it’s no longer possible for them to be driving themselves around, or perhaps it’s no longer safe for them or others. Scarily, car accidents were the 2nd leading cause of death among those aged 65 to 84 in 2018, and those numbers are likely to have remained similar over the last 2 years.
Even if your elderly family member or friend enjoys driving, finding alternative transportation for seniors is a good idea so your loved one can stay independent, happy, and healthy.
Why Do Seniors Need Alternative Transport Options?
Elderly people may be getting on in years but most of them still feel like the young men and women they once were! It can be difficult for them to give up their independence and mobility when the time comes.
It’s natural to not want to make these changes, though! Imagine not being able to get in your car tomorrow and go where you need to go. That’s how they feel.
The most common reason for needing transportation for seniors is that they simply can’t drive safely anymore.
It’s important to be aware that this is a very individual thing, though. Your grandmother could be happy and healthy and still hitting the road safely at 80, while your 70-year-old grandfather could be struggling to drive safely.
No Longer Able To Drive
There are various physical reasons that an elderly person may not be able to drive anymore:
- Eyesight deteriorating
- Judgment not as good as it used to be
- Reflexes aren’t as sharp
- Not as flexible
- Medications are affecting them
- They get tired more quickly
Because of these, it may become difficult to:
- See the road ahead
- See what color the traffic lights are
- Spot brake lights ahead
- Stay in the right lane
- Turn in the right place
- Avoid obstacles
- Get in and out of the driver’s seat
Even though statistics suggest that the 21-29 age group is the group that crashes most often, the reality is that a 25-year-old could crash into your elderly loved one’s vehicle – and they wouldn’t have the reflexes to avoid it.
The risk of fatal injury increases with age. So whether your loved one is the cause of the accident or not, at some point it’s best for them to take a back seat… Literally.
Benefits of Alternative Transportation for Seniors
There’s no reason your senior loved one needs to stay home and never see anyone just because they’re not driving! They can still:
- Run errands
- Do grocery shopping
- Visit friends and family
- Get out of the house
- Maintain their independence
… if they have a reliable alternate transportation option.
How Can Seniors Get Around?
If your family member or friend is no longer using their own car, there are a variety of options available to them:
If there’s a family member available, this could be a great option. It’s comforting for both the now-non-driver and the family member to know that they’re in safe, capable hands.
Sometimes, though, it’s not easy for family members to be available at any given time. Most work 9-5, have kids to take care of, and can’t take an hour or two off to help their elderly loved one do their shopping or run errands, as much as they may want to.
If your senior has a hired caregiver, it’s possible that the caregiver could drive them around when needed. But this is something you’d need to discuss with the caregiver upon hiring, as there are specific insurance requirements that need to be met.
If your senior loved one needing transportation is new, it may be worth discussing this with their carer and seeing if a plan can be made.
Most areas offer free or reduced-cost public transport for senior citizens. If your elderly loved one is still spritely enough to take a taxi or a bus, and they live somewhere that it’s safe to do so, then a bit of education on being extra careful while in public would help.
A quick call to the nearest Area Agency on Aging or Center for Independent Living will give you info and resources to help your loved one find great public transport options. To qualify, one would need to apply and may be asked to come for an in-person interview
Senior loved ones with disabilities don’t need to miss out. Paratransit services are an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) initiative that provides public agency fixed-route services for people who are unable to use regular public transport.
It’s worth noting that there are private paratransit agencies too, so you’ll likely find many of them around your area.
Private Transportation Services
There’s a vast array of private transportation companies that are ready and waiting to drive your senior family member where they need to go.
Ride services are gaining popularity as senior citizens begin to realize that they’re easy and convenient to use.
Types of Transportation for Seniors
Depending on what your elderly loved one needs, they can choose from a range of different transportation types.
This is just as it sounds – transportation for seniors to get from one exact spot to another. Door-to-door transport usually requires some kind of reservation in advance, so it’s great for planned visits or appointments.
Fees can vary quite dramatically depending on the service you use. Most door-to-door services are fairly flexible and provide a decent level of comfort that’s appreciated for seniors.
Fixed-route services are like bus stops. They move from one point to another, picking up and dropping off senior citizens along the way.
Most of the time, their schedules are quite regular. Your loved one can pop up to the pick-up point at any time and a vehicle will be along shortly.
Ridesharing programs are aimed at groups of seniors who have a common destination. Some common uses for ridesharing include:
- Shopping centers
- Senior care centers
- Medical centers
Rideshares are usually scheduled in advance to ensure space on the vehicle for every passenger.
Transportation Services for Seniors
If you’re looking for alternative transportation for seniors that’s reliable, safe, and well-known, there are some great options to look into.
When choosing one, consider:
- The reason for needing transport
- What kind of transportation would suit your loved one best?
- Are there requirements to join?
- What are the fees?
- What are their hours?
- Are rides scheduled?
Of course, if your elderly relative lives in a care home, the home itself may offer a ride service. This is worth looking into before deciding on an external one. The same is true for churches and community organizations that your loved one may belong to.
If your senior is eligible for Medicaid, they can request non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) – that is, for things like doctor’s appointments and medicine collection.
To qualify for these ride services, seniors have to:
- Be eligible to register for Medicaid
- Not have a driver’s license
- Have no access to a vehicle
- Be unable to travel alone
- Have a physical or mental limitation
Medicaid will cover transport to a hospital in the case of an emergency, such as chest pains or a traffic accident (although the point of this article is to avoid those!).
Eligible individuals (which senior citizens who don’t drive may be) can get Medicaid cover for rides to and from doctor’s appointments or hospitals in the case of non-emergencies. Rules and regulations vary by state as to what constitutes non-emergency travel, so it’s worth checking out your state’s rules.
Your elderly family member will most likely need to apply and be assessed so Medicaid can be sure they meet the requirements.
To get a ride, you’ll need to book it in advance and make sure to be ready when the vehicle arrives.
ITNAmerica Rides in Sight
The Independent Transportation Network (ITN) caters specifically for those over the age of 60, and people with visual impairments.
This system is super for seniors. The main member will open a Personal Transportation Account and deposit money into it, and all rides are debited from that account.
This is a bonus – our elderly loved ones have no need to carry cash with them. It also makes it easy for another family member to cover the cost of their rides.
ITN drivers don’t accept tips, either. They’re ready and willing to carry luggage, assist with walkers or wheelchairs, and provide a supportive arm.
A really nice feature they offer is that elderly folk who need to give up their car can trade it in for rides, which is super for those seniors who may be making that transition.
Seniors who haven’t quite got the hang of smartphones might be extra happy with GoGoGrandparent. They’re a full-on elderly care service that offers Uber-like services for older folk, and all it takes is a call to their landline number.
They offer some awesome features, such as:
- Door-to-door rides (via Uber or Lyft)
- Meal delivery
- Grocery delivery
- Help with medication management
- Driver/rider match according to your preferences
- Specials in your area
- 24/7 support
- Emergency contacts
A membership will cost $9.99 per month, which means you’ll pay a concierge fee of $0.27 per minute, which is significantly less than the non-member fee of $12 per ride.
It’s a small price to pay for a well-monitored trip in which you can be sure your loved one is in good, safe hands!
Ride services like Uber and Lyft are great for those senior citizens who know their way around a smartphone.
If they’re tech-savvy, this could be a very easy way for them to get where they need to go. The apps are user-friendly and offer a variety of advantages:
- Schedule in advance
- Choose from rideshares, luxury travel, budget rides, or wheelchair-friendly
- 24/7 customer service
- Share routes with family or friends
- Contact emergency services from within the apps
Drivers are screened before being allowed to drive, so it’s a safe option for elderly travelers. If your family member is only going to be traveling short distances, it should be fairly affordable.
Everything is straightforward in the app, so if your senior loved one is good with the phone, this would be a superb way for them to stay quite independent.
Veyo is another non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) company. They’re very medically-oriented, so they’re a great option for elderly people who make frequent trips for non-emergency medical reasons.
Their drivers are of top quality, and must pass:
- Background checks
- First Aid & CPR certificates
- HIPAA & ADA training
- Customer service & sensitivity training
- Drug testing
One of the nice things about Veyo is that they’re easily accessible for all seniors, via smartphone app, on the website, or a phone call.
They’re very data-driven, so their response time is fast, safety is high, and customer service is friendly and efficient. Unfortunately, they’re only available in 6 states at this point in time – Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, and Virginia.
Right At Home Transport
Right at Home is a caregiving service that provides transport assistance to elderly people who need help with errands, getting to appointments, or visiting the pharmacy.
It’s as simple as calling their offices to schedule a ride. They do all the organizing and all your loved one has to do is wait for them to arrive.
They make sure their drivers have squeaky clean backgrounds and their vehicles are regularly inspected to make sure they’re safe and roadworthy. Vehicles are large enough for walkers or wheelchairs, and seniors may travel with their caregivers if they need to.
If this sounds like the right thing for your senior, Right At Home can be found in these cities.
How Do I Make The Transition As Easy As Possible?
It’s entirely possible that your senior loved one is still great behind the wheel. If that’s the case, it may be a good idea to make sure they’re up to speed with eye tests and health checks. It’s also a great idea to make sure they have resources available to keep them as competent as possible.
Explaining To Your Loved One That They Need To Stop Driving
The hardest part of this whole process can be explaining to your elderly loved one that it’s time for them to give up their car. They may be averse to it and fight with you!
Keep in mind that this transition is not easy for them. You’ll need to be gentle and loving and let them know that you’ll be there to assist when they need you.
How To Help Them Transition
Here are some simple ways to make the change as easy as possible for your elderly loved one:
Get Them Involved
Make sure your loved one is involved in this process! Don’t just force them to give up their vehicle and their independence. Let them do this on their terms, as much as possible.
Ask Them Which Alternative Option Would Suit Them
Find out about their travel habits and what kind of trips they’re most likely to be doing. If they take frequent trips to medical centers or pharmacies, something like a NEMT service might be the best option.
If they’re smartphone savvy, a ride app could work well. On the other hand, if they’re a bit averse to tech, something that they can call into would probably be easier.
Support Them Where You Can
No elderly person wants to feel like their family is deserting them or palming them off on others. It’s a great idea to set up a ridesharing app or transportation service for when you can’t be around, but don’t neglect them – give them a ride whenever you can.
Whether your elderly loved one is still a competent driver or they’re becoming a bit more of a hazard on the roads, it’s worth looking into alternative transportation for seniors.
There will come a time when they need to give up the car keys for good. If you have a reliable, friendly, easy-to-use transport service ready and waiting, it can go a long way towards making the move from driver to passenger as easy as possible.