Ready to try out some alternatives to driving? Depending on where you live, rideshare apps, senior driving services and public transportation can help you get where you want to go.
Here are just a few of the ways you can be on the move without getting behind the wheel:
Rides with people you know
Don’t overlook the most obvious source of transportation: friends and family. This is especially convenient when they’re already going where you want to go. For instance, you can share a ride to Sunday services with a member of your church, or come along on a family member’s regular grocery-shopping day. People are usually happy to help, but they won’t know you need help if you don’t ask.
We hear older adults do not want to be a burden on others. However, sometimes offering a small amount of money can help out the niece, grandchild or neighbor for “some extras” and make it a useful solution.
Depending on where you live and your physical mobility, a public bus or train service may be an option. You’ll have to walk to a bus stop or station to catch your ride, but if you can, this can be an economical option. Communities that provide public transit are also required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide “complementary paratransit” service—transportation for people who cannot use the regular bus or rail service due to a disability. Call your local transit to find out if this is an option for you.
Though options are more limited in rural areas, local churches sometimes have senior transportation programs. To find other area services, you can go the Rides In Sight website at www.ridesinsight.org. Rides In Sight provides a searchable database of transportation options across the country. If you prefer, you can call their toll-free hotline at 1-855-607-4337, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Your local Area Agency on Aging can also help you find transportation services. You can find the agency near you by using this directory.
Suburban and city areas
These rideshare services are available nationwide:
- Uber and Lyft. These two popular rideshare services work in the same way. First, you download the service’s app on your smartphone and create an account. Then, when you need a ride, you open the app, enter your desired destination and tap an on-screen button to send the request. Soon, a driver will be on their way to get you. The app will give you information about the make and model of the car and the name and appearance of the driver, so you can recognize them when they arrive at your door. The service charges a fee, like a taxi, which will be charged directly to the credit or debit card you entered when you created your account. You can tip the driver through the app as well, so no money needs to change hands.
- GoGoGrandparent. Don’t have a smartphone? No problem. GoGoGrandparent is a middleman service you can call on your not-smart phone or landline to arrange an Uber or Lyft ride. To use the service, you just register online or by phone. When you need a ride, you call, press a few buttons on your phone and voila! Your ride is on its way. For safety, it will send a text to inform a family member that you are getting on the ride and where you are going. GoGo charges a small per-mile concierge fee, on top of the Uber or Lyft fare.
These services are available in select areas:
- Via. Getting an Uber or Lyft is like getting a taxi (except the driver is using their own car); Via is more like a small, on-demand bus. With Via, you share a ride with several other passengers, and you may stop along the way to pick up and drop off passengers. Via does not come to your door; your pickup/dropoff locations will be at a corner near your home/destination. As with Uber and Lyft, you must download a smartphone app to use Via. Via currently operates in New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
- SilverRide. Currently operating in the San Francisco Bay Area and Kansas City area, SilverRide is a ride service designed especially for seniors. Its drivers are licensed, bonded and insured, and will accompany passengers all the way into their destination, providing physical assistance if necessary (all the drivers are trained in assisting disabled passengers). SilverRide also offers a Medical Pickup service to bring patients home from doctor’s appointments or outpatient procedures. Rides can be scheduled online, by email or by phone.
Religious and charitable organizations
Some nonprofits and faith-based organizations offer low-cost or even free transportation for seniors. To find services near you, contact your Area Agency on Aging (search for Area Agency on Aging online or call 1-800-677-1116 to find the one nearest you).