Access to a reliable mode of transportation is key to many aspects of our lives whether it’s getting to work every day, going out to get groceries, or making last minute plans to see a friend across town. For many of us, it’s easy to take for granted that we could drive ourselves in a car, order an Uber on our smartphones, or walk to the nearest bus/train stop. However, the transportation options you’re comfortable with may not be the right fit for your aging loved one. It may not be safe for them to operate a vehicle anymore, they may be unfamiliar with rideshare programs, or perhaps they live in a rural area without easy access to public transportation. Whether you’re looking for a full-time solution, or just want to plan ahead, we’ll walk through different types of senior transportation options to consider for your aging loved one.Identifying When It's Time to Seek Senior Citizens Transportation Services
Having the ability to drive is important for any of us to maintain our daily routines, stay socially active, and have control over our independence. For seniors, this may be something that’s particularly difficult to let go of especially if it’s not just about comfort but a necessity. Almost three quarters of the older adult population live in areas with few alternative transportation options. While age itself may not be a clear determinant of whether or not one should be driving, it’s important to keep in mind that driving requires a combination of many important physical and mental factors that can seem effortless but can decline with age. Some common factors to consider when deciding if your loved one should still be driving include:
- Vision: Are they getting regular checkups with their optometrist? Can they easily see street signs, stoplights, other vehicles and pedestrians?
- Hearing: Can they identify the sounds that may be coming from their car that could indicate an issue, or hear sounds from their surroundings such as emergency sirens?
- Physical Coordination: How is their range of motion? Are they able to safely look over a shoulder to check a blind spot?
- Mental Acuity: Are they able to notice vital alerts or signs on the road? Can they make quick decisions and react to a situation in order to keep themselves and those around them safe?
Even if you’re not quite ready to talk to your loved one about taking the keys away, alternative senior transportation options can help you in situations when you might want some extra assurance that your loved ones are able to get around safely.
Types of Transportation Services for Senior Citizens
Whether it’s a particularly long drive when you know it’ll be dark outside, or your loved one has a doctor’s appointment far away, these alternatives may come in handy when you or another family member aren’t available to personally assist your loved one.
- Local City/Town Services: Most towns will have a senior transportation resource directory located on their local government website. This is a great place to identify free or low-cost transportation options such as volunteer-run services, public transit services, local shuttle bus routes, or discounted taxi ride programs. Local senior centers or community centers in your region may also provide transportation for seniors to access their center or go on trips to the grocery store or doctor’s office.
- Paratransit Services: If your loved one has a disability and can’t easily navigate forms of mass public transit, you can also find local paratransit options. These services typically offer specially-equipped shuttles and some assistance to help your loved one. If your loved one has special medical needs, local paratransit services may be the right fit to assist them. Click here to search for local paratransit options.
- General Rideshare Services: Companies like Uber and Lyft are now available in virtually any region in the U.S. (and sometimes internationally). In select regions, they may also offer Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) options with some assistance to meet your loved one’s needs. These on-demand services can be easily requested through an app or by phone call using services like GoGoGrandparent for seniors who would prefer not to navigate a smartphone app.
- Senior Focused Rideshare Services: Unlike general rideshare services, companies like Envoy America or Papa cater specifically to seniors and their needs. These companies offer door-through-door on-demand services to make sure your loved one gets safely to and from their destination. They may also offer companionship services such as helping your loved one pick out groceries, go shopping at the mall, or just waiting with them at a doctor’s appointment so that their ride is ready to go when they are. Companies like Homethrive work closely with these types of specialized rideshare services and can assist with scheduling on-demand and future rides for clients through a simple email, text, or call with their Care Guide.
Choosing the Right Transportation Service for Your Loved One
There are a lot of factors to consider when finding a transportation service for your loved one. A few questions to think about are:
- Where do they live? Are they in a city or a rural area?
- Will they need special assistance? Do they have medical needs?
- Who will be paying for services? Do you have to consider a budget?
Depending on your loved one’s needs, some transportation options may also be covered Medicaid or Medicare. It’s important to consider these questions early on so you have time to do some research and identify what services work best for you and your loved one. Experts in elder care like Homethrive Care Guides can also help you research and consider your options.
Assessing the Safety and Reliability of the Service Provider
It’s normal to have some hesitation when trying a new service – especially when it’s about the care of a loved one. When it comes to transportation services, it can be particularly nerve wracking when you don’t know who will be operating the vehicle. Nowadays, there are a few ways to get a sense of how reliable a service or driver is with the myriad of online rating systems available like Google or Yelp. With some services (like Uber or Lyft), you might even have access to the driver’s personal profile and see previous ratings from other riders. While it may be difficult to guarantee a 5-star experience with each ride, you can do some research into the provider and see what measures they take to ensure the safety of their drivers and passengers. Look for providers who vet their drivers with thorough background checks, operate well maintained and inspected vehicles, and allow you to easily contact them with questions or in case of emergency.
Preparing Your Loved One for Their First Ride with a Transportation Service
Have an open conversation about why your loved one needs these services. Whether it was their idea, or yours, talking through what options are available together will ease some of those worries and fears that come with trying something new.
If you or another family member lives close by and has the time, maybe you could offer to try the service together or see if your loved one has a friend that would be interested in accompanying them. Stay in touch with your loved one to make sure they’ve confirmed the scheduled ride or know where the pick-up area is. If it’s not a door-to-door service, take some time to review the service route and help your loved one familiarize themselves with where they should go. Call them during the ride or check in afterwards to see how it went. Most importantly, do as much research as you can or get help from a company like Homethrive to find safe and reliable providers for your loved one.