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The New Senior Transportation: Uber and Lyft Ride-Sharing

Update, May 31, 2017: One more ride-hailing service for seniors is emerging. In the San Francisco area, SilverRide specifically serves older adults and people with mobility limitations. The company says it has national expansion plans.

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.

Woman using smartphone, to illustrate Uber and Lyft are tackling senior transportation.

Grab your phone to get a ride.

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.

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

Woman helping older woman into car, to illustrate 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.

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  • Mark Edelen

    About Mark Edelen:

    Welcome to the After55.com Senior Living Blog. I direct and edit the blog for the best senior-housing and senior-living insight and advice, while also conducting search-engine optimization for the site as a whole. Follow me on Twitter @MarkEdelen.

    Comments

    1. Hi Mark, my brief experience with Uber was a frustrating one and very expensive. What about the seniors who are low on finances to get to and from anywhere? I currently use Dial a Ride in Phoenix but even it’s $8 rate round trip can cost me a days worth of food.

      • That’s a good point, Diana. Uber and Lyft can be cheaper than a taxi, but they certainly aren’t free.

        Readers in Phoenix: Any suggestions for other ways seniors can get around the Phoenix area for less?

        – Mark, After55.com

    2. What does one do if going to a medical treatment where a driver must stay at the facility till the senior is ready to return home??

      • Your best bet would be to request another car when you are done with your appointment. A driver might agree to wait, but you will be charged a per-minute rate. You might be expected to give a really good tip. So it’s cheaper for you – and better for drivers – to avoid wait times.

        – Mark, After55.com

    3. “Older customers tend to be 360 degrees from those infamous young passengers who have had too much to drink.”

      I think you mean 180 degrees, not 360. If 360 you are back where you started. If 180 you are diametrically opposed.

      • Good point, Michael. Thanks for the catch. We have updated the article. If older passengers were spinning 360 degrees, they might be as drunk as those college kids! 🙂

        – Mark, After55.com

    Trackbacks

    1. […] Edelen, M. (2017, January 9). The new senior transportation: Uber and Lyft ride-sharing. AFTER55.com. Retrieved from https://www.after55.com/blog/senior-transportation-uber-lyft/. […]

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