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 Uber and Lyft are 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. Plain and simple: Losing the ability to drive can feel like a major setback for older people who wish to maintain independent and active lives.
The problem is exacerbated by poor public transportation in some cities. Transportation for America, for instance, found that 90 percent of seniors in metro Atlanta live in areas with poor access to public transportation. That’s the worst ranking for large metro areas in the country.
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.
Uber and Lyft could close that gap. How? With a little technology, senior housing partnerships, and special services for the mobility-impaired.
How to Use Uber and Lyft
“Uber? Isn’t that the people who drive around in their own cars and give drunk kids rides home?”
Yes, Uber is operated via drivers using their personal vehicles. It does serve quite often as a safe option for those who have had too much to drink. And it is a “newfangled” option that requires a little bit of tech savvy.
However, this shouldn’t deter seniors from taking advantage of the service. All you need to catch a ride is a smartphone with the Uber or Lyft app. 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, Uber and Lyft 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.
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. Uber also offers uberWAV with wheelchair-accessible vehicles, though availability appears to be limited.
Given that seniors with limited transportation options might need to use ride-hailing often, Uber has been working to develop partnerships with local senior advocates, organizations, 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.
Lyft, meanwhile, has been partnering with senior housing operators like Sunshine Retirement Living and Brookdale Senior Living to offer ride-hailing services that don’t require a smartphone or credit card information. Residents in these communities can request transportation to non-emergency medical appointments or other destinations. The charges are added to residents’ monthly bills. Lyft also is testing a service that lets seniors request a ride through their Jitterbug cell phones.
Drivers Love Seniors, Too
It’s not just older passengers who are enjoying the ride. Lyft and Uber drivers report, too, that they appreciate senior customers in their cars. Older customers tend to be 180 degrees from those infamous young passengers who have had too much to drink.
With Lyft, friendlier drivers are assigned to passengers who enjoy more conversation, and drivers encourage passengers to sit in the front seat to enjoy the ride. Uber is about speedier pick-ups for your tight schedules. Either way, all it takes is a few touches on your phone.