It’s a too-common scenario for seniors: Places to go, things to see, and a life to lead—but limited mobility or the inability to drive prevents them from getting out. Fortunately, ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber—and a new service tailored to the needs of seniors called SilverRide (which has launched in San Francisco, CA but is planning expansion in the US)—are all addressing senior transportation with new initiatives.
The Community Transportation Association estimates that 26 million older Americans rely on others for their transportation. With the elderly population growing, this number will only increase in coming years. Not being able to drive can affect more than just self-esteem. It can take a toll on physical health as well. In fact, a 2004 report found that seniors who don’t drive make 15% fewer trips to the doctor than their driving counterparts.
Ride sharing services could close that gap. How? With a little technology, senior housing partnerships, and special services for the mobility-impaired.
How to Use Lyft and Uber
Lyft and Uber are operated via drivers using their personal vehicles. They originally gained popularity among young urban dwellers as a safe option for those who have had too much to drink. However, these personal ride sharing options expanded very quickly in geographical range and popularity of use. While these services do require a little bit of tech savvy, that shouldn’t deter seniors from taking advantage of these services. All you need to catch a ride is a smartphone with the Lyft or Uber apps. Ask your children, grandchildren or a tech-savvy friend if you need a little help downloading and setting up the app.
Once a phone is equipped with the app, Lyft and Uber are easy to use. Provide a payment method (usually a credit card or PayPal) and then just type in the address of where you want to go. The app will automatically calculate the rate for the ride, so the cost is known upfront. A driver’s description and car model will be provided, as well as the estimated time of arrival.
For more cost savings, you can take advantage of Lyft’s Lyft Line, in which you carpool with other consumers riding the same route to split the tab. Uber’s version of that option is uberPOOL.
Once at your destination, just say thank you and goodbye. The cost will be charged to your credit card. The entire transaction is handled online, so there is no need to exchange cash or give a tip (unless you want to). Ready to come home? Just perform the same action in reverse, using your home address.
Special Services for Senior Transportation
For seniors who need extra assistance, Uber offers uberASSIST. This service uses drivers who are trained to help riders get into and out of the vehicle and can accommodate folding wheelchairs, walkers and scooters.
Given that seniors with limited transportation options might need to use ride-hailing often, Lyft and Uber have both been working to develop partnerships with local senior advocates, organizations, local retirement communities and municipalities around the country with the goal of increasing affordability. In many cities, programs are being tested in which seniors can get discounted—or even free—rides due to city support. Some of these initiatives also address ride-hailing options for seniors without smartphones. Check in your area for specific options.
by Mark Edelen