Transportation is rapidly changing, not least because of the proliferation of new ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. In a short time, these convenient services have become crucial for getting around cities.
You might think these kinds of services have been a boon for seniors who are unable to drive. But many seniors either don’t have a smartphone or aren’t comfortable using it. Others may need cars with handicap accessibility or help getting to and from the door. Furthermore, ride-hailing services are really only available in cities, leaving people who live in more rural areas without these options.
Luckily, a variety of services have cropped up recently to help seniors, and their caregivers, address some of these challenges, including recent initiatives by industry leaders Uber and Lyft.
In 2015, ride-hailing behemoth Uber started a pilot program in Gainesville, Florida, to provide transportation for residents of two senior living communities. The company offered technology tutorials to help seniors get comfortable with using the app to request a ride. In 2016, Uber expanded the program to all seniors in Gainesville.
Though that program has yet to expand, Uber also offers some extra assistance for seniors with its Uber Assist program and has launched uberWAV in Toronto, giving riders a wheelchair-accessible option. On the other hand, the company has been criticized at times for not offering more services for people with disabilities and has been sued under the Americans With Disabilities Act to provide more access.
Learn more at Uber.com.
Like Uber, ridesharing giant Lyft is taking steps to improve its outreach for seniors and access for people with disabilities. Last fall, Lyft announced a slate of solutions for obstacles to seniors using its services, working with partners to take Lyft requests over the phone and to make it easier for groups working with seniors to requests rides on their behalf.
Lyft has also been working on making its service more accessible to people with disabilities, but, like Uber, its coverage is spotty and it has faced lawsuits over its ADA compliance. Lyft has a setting in its app to request a vehicle capable of accommodating wheelchairs, but in areas where Lyft doesn’t have such vehicles it recommends another service that may need to be booked 24 hours or more in advance.
Learn more at Lyft.com.
3. Go Go Grandparent
One service that’s popped up to help seniors manage Uber and Lyft is Go Go Grandparent, a call-in service that helps people who either don’t have or aren’t comfortable with smartphones to arrange rides. The service offers an extra measure of assurance by employing “professional grandchildren” to make sure the ride goes smoothly and features an option to alert the rider’s caregiver where their older loved one is going and who their driver is.
The service is largely automated but operators are available if necessary.
The company was founded in Los Angeles last year by Justin Boogaard and David Lung. Boogaard says he started the service just to help his own grandmother and took all calls himself. But his grandmother had an active social life, and before long he was taking calls for about 100 of her friends. It was affecting his sleep, and he realized he had to hire a staff.
Go Go Grandparent began charging for the service (19 cents per minute in addition to the standard Uber or Lyft fee), and now have accumulated tens of thousands of customers.
Learn more at GoGoGrandparent.com.
Another smaller service similar to Go Go Grandparent is Arrive. Arrive is a members-only service that dispatches Lyft and Uber rides to customers, many of whom do not have smartphones. Live operators provide an even higher level of service, giving drivers detailed descriptions of the riders before pickup.
"Most of what we're doing is directing the driver when they're at the address to find the rider," says Arrive co-founder Amy Stice.
Hours of operation are limited to between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific time, so most of the company’s customers are still on the West Coast. But some East Coasters have been taking advantage of the service for evening activities like going to dinner, Stice says.
Stice, too, got the idea for the service when she was arranging Uber rides for her grandmother in Moraga, California. Now she’s providing the same service for between 100 and 200 others, half of whom don’t have cellphones at all.
"We're doing exactly what I used to do for my grandmother," Stice said. "We're just asking for favors from the drivers to make it easier for the riders."
Learn more at ArriveRides.com.
5. Liberty Mobility Now
In some of the country’s more rural areas, Liberty Mobility Now has emerged as a solution for basic transportation needs and a first- and last-mile solution for often spotty public transportation access.
“We've found that there's this really intense demand for ridesharing and just improved transportation in rural areas,” says Tyler Bassinger, a spokesman for the company. "We go where people have expressed a high interest in this and then partner with a nonprofit or a government organization."
Based in Lincoln, Nebraska, Liberty Mobility Now operates in seven states, employing its own fleet of drivers as well as partnering with whatever other transportation options are available to get people rides. The company’s goal isn’t to compete with Uber or Lyft but to fill in gaps, Bassinger said.
Liberty Mobility Now covers areas of Ohio, South Dakota, Colorado, Virginia, Missouri, is working on operating statewide in Nebraska and is about to launch in Corpus Christi, Texas. While they provide rides for anyone, well over half of their clientele is seniors.
The company provides its drivers training for ADA compliance and instructs them to go above and beyond with services like helping riders with their groceries.
Learn more at LibertyMobilityNow.com.
A company offering a comprehensive approach in the San Francisco area, SilverRide, was launched back in 2007, well before Uber or Lyft. Its services are even more comprehensive, sometimes accompanying seniors on their outings if desired or necessary.
Before even going anywhere, SilverRide drivers spend time with their clients and families to plan outings. They’ll take them on errands like doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping, but also to ballgames, museums, restaurants and parks, according to the company’s website.
When they pick up clients, the drivers go inside to help them to the car, and when they arrive at their destination, they walk the client inside as well.
Learn more at SilverRide.com.
Via -- a carpooling service operating in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. -- has been very popular with seniors in New York City. Seniors accounted for 27 percent of their riders late in 2015, according to an article in New York Magazine.
The service is simple: after booking a ride, a shared car picks up passengers at nearby street corners and they ride together. Uber and Lyft offer similar services that have received mixed reviews, but seniors in New York have raved about Via’s cheap prices and sense of community.
Learn more at RideWithVia.com.
8. National Volunteer Transportation Center
Volunteer Transportation Center is another organization helping to fill the gaps left by Uber and Lyft. Not a transportation provider itself, the center provides resources to roughly 800 volunteer driver programs nationwide.
The services in the center’s database range from small mom-and-pop operations to large, sophisticated programs. They also mainly cover rural areas that are difficult for Uber and Lyft to serve.
"They rise out of the interest in the community and the concern of the community," said Helen Kerschner, the center’s director.
Volunteer drivers generally provide a much higher level of service than Uber or Lyft, escorting riders to the door and even staying and waiting for hours while their rider goes for dialysis treatment or other lengthy appointments.
"They can take passengers to multiple destinations and stay with them at the destinations -- these are important features that set them apart from other transportation services," Kerschner says.
The center mainly exists to provide information about the services -- a map of volunteer transportation services is available on its website -- but also assists in getting them funded by providing data analysis to help get government funding and giving annual cash awards, and potentially even a vehicle through a partnership with Toyota.
Learn more at the National Volunteer Transportation Center's website.