Options for Senior Transportation

Key to Aging in Place is a Senior Friendly Transport System

ride share
Senior transport is a huge issue. Companies like Uber and others are rushing to fill teh void. Getty Images

One of the biggest social determinants of health care is transportation. As parents age and lose (or have taken away) their ability to drive, transportation becomes a lifeline. In an Uber economy options are emerging. Whether seniors will embrace them is another story. Let's explore options for senior transportation.

Making older Americans’ lives easier to age, no matter where one lives is the goal of the government, aging experts, and senior care providers.

One massive factor that seniors rely on the most to remain independent is accessible transportation. And since it’s the boomer generation that enters the aging group, you can bet that we will demand it.

According to a report by the Transportation in America (T4 America), more than 11.5 million Americans 65 and older lived with “poor” transit access in 2000. And since this age group wishes to age in place, it’s a big problem. T4 America says this number will increase to more than 15.5 million older Americans by 2015. And, here we are.

It was in 2000 when I helped my mom with her health appointments. She lived with congestive heart failure and required twice-weekly medical treatments. The facility was 20 miles from her home. She depended on her adult children ( my sisters and me) for transportation. It’s true that family members want to help as much as possible but when it requires a 125-mile drive (one-way) to pick her up, it’s a hardship.

The only transportation available back then, besides us, was an undependable shared transit. The bus consistently ran hours behind schedule, forcing my mother to catch it way in advance. What’s worse, she was required to wait even longer for the ride back. Needless to say, we gave up on that idea.

The Uber Economy

Private companies hope to change the inefficiency.

It’s a good thing too because if boomers can’t move around freely, we got a big problem. And if we lose social connection and independence, we’re up a creek especially since most us are self-reliant.

How do older Americans, without driving privileges, get around now? Most of the time they’ll grab a ride:

  • From friends and family (bothersome),
  • Use a volunteer service (less efficient),
  • Use door-to-door transit (limited to the age 65+),
  • Call a cab (costly),
  • Catch a Metro bus (inconvenient for most living in the suburbs and rural areas.)

What does the future hold for mobility answers? We look to the rising stars using break-through technologies and peer-to-peer ride companies. Most rideshare services have been around for years and utilized by the Millennials, but until recently, companies see seniors as the bigger market. Or at least one with the bigger need.

Ridesharing is an imminent trend. It provides drivers who use their cars to pick up the older adult to a scheduled appointment or a particular destination. A driver from Lift Hero will accompany the adult to the doctor’s office if needed for an extra charge. The fees are more expensive than a cab, but they offer a modified twist with the ride, companionship by nursing and medical students.

They only operate out of the San Francisco Bay area at this time.

Uber will partner with senior community facilities and aging advocates to provide free technology tutorials and free or discounted rides to older Americans to help increase their access to transportation options. But don’t assume older people are tech-phobic. 

Given the immense needs of seniors in the years to come, hopefully, the private sector can learn from other companies who make giant strides in aging innovations. At a recent White House Conference on Aging, the we heard from tech innovators like Hewlett-Packard, Airbnb, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology who step-up to deliver needed products and assistance.

Senior mobility is only one problem, but the other issues can be solved if the new wave companies begin to leverage know-how, generational shifts, and actively seek to transform and improve the traditional solutions.

Carol Marak, Aging Advocate and Editor at Seniorcare.com. She’s an experienced family caregiver and writes about aging issues, senior care concerns, and the family’s role throughout the journey. She’s passionate about ending society’s barriers that obstruct aging with dignity. Her work appears in senior health outlets.  Follow at @Carebuzz and @SeniorCareQuest. 

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