Getting around when you no longer drive
October 1, 2019
Dear Savvy Senior: Where can I find out about alternative transportation services for my 80-year-old mother? It's time that she gives up driving, but before she does, we need to figure out how she'll get around. - Inquiring Son
Dear Inquiring: Alternative transportation options for seniors who no longer drive vary widely by community, so what's available to your mom will depend on where she lives. Here's what you should know.
While most urban areas offer seniors a variety of alternative transportation services, the options may be few to none for those living in the suburbs, small towns and rural areas. Depending on where your mom lives, here's a rundown of possible solutions that can help her get around, along with some resources to help you locate them.
Family and friends. This is the most often used and favorite option among seniors. So, make a list of all possible candidates your mom can call on, along with their availability and contact information.
Volunteer transportation programs. These are usually run by local nonprofits or religious organizations and provide elderly seniors transportation to doctor's appointments, shopping, and more. These services may charge a small fee or accept donations and often operate with a network of volunteer drivers.
Some examples of local transportation programs include Envoy America ( http://www.EnvoyAmerica.com ) that provides senior transportation in 78 cities in Arizona, Texas, Washington, Illinois, New Mexico, Georgia and Pennsylvania. The Independent Transportation Network ( http://www.ITNAmerica.org ) that serves 14 communities across 12 states. And SilverRide ( http://www.SilverRide.com ), which serves the San Francisco bay area and Kansas City. To search for volunteer driving programs in your area visit http://www.NationalVolunteerTransportationCenter.org – click on "Map of Volunteer Driver Programs."
[Editor's note: A look at Alaska on the map shows programs in Juneau, Kasilof, Nome, Palmer, Soldotna, Valdez.]
Demand response services. Often referred to as "dial-a-ride" or "elderly and disabled transportation service," these are usually government-funded programs that provide door-to-door transportation services by appointment and usually charge a small fee or donation on a per ride basis. Many use vans and offer accessible services for riders with special needs.
Taxis and rideshare services. While taxis are a viable transportation option in many communities, rideshare services like Uber ( http://www.Uber.com ) and Lyft ( http://www.Lyft.com ), which are widely available, have become more popular among seniors who don't drive.
To get a ride, your mom could simply use the Uber or Lyft smartphone app, a computer, or she can call a ride-hailing service like Go Go Grandparent ( http://www.GoGoGrandparent.com ). Or, you can make arrangements for her on your smartphone.
Cost will vary depending on your mom's location, distance traveled and peak travel time, but rideshare services are usually cheaper than taxis. Uber and Lyft also offer carpooling services that would allow your mom to save money by splitting the tab with other consumers riding the same route. And for seniors with mobility problems, both Uber and Lyft have accessible vehicles that you can request in certain locations.
Hire someone. Consider hiring someone to drive your mom like a neighbor, retiree, high school or college student that has a flexible schedule and wouldn't mind making a few extra bucks. You can also hire a senior driving companion through nonmedical home-care agencies, or you can find someone on your own at websites like http://www.Care.com or http://www.CareLinx.com.
Private business transportation services. Some hospitals, health clinics,
senior centers, adult day centers, malls or other businesses may offer transportation for program participants or customers.
Mass transit. Public transportation (buses, trains, subways, etc.) where available, can also be an affordable option and may offer senior reduced rates.
Where to Look
To find out what transportation services are available in your mom's area contact Rides in Sight ( http://www.RidesInSight.org, 855-607-4337), and the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116), which will direct you to her area agency on aging or Aging and Disability Resource Center for assistance. You should also contact local senior centers, places of worship and retirement communities for other possible options.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit http://www.SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.