The ability to get from point A to point B is something many of us take for granted. Unfortunately, older adults often lose this ability due to physical, cognitive and financial limitations. When seniors can no longer travel, they may struggle to access health care and carry out everyday chores. Perhaps most important, they often lose their sense of independence and perceived quality of life.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, adults over age 65 make an average of 3.4 trips per day. This means seniors rely heavily on access to transport. When elder individuals lose the ability to drive, many take public transit. However, Transportation for America reported that in 2015, more than 15.5 million seniors over 65 lived in communities where public transport was “poor or non-existent.” According to the NADTC, transportation for seniors is most commonly provided by family caregivers, with a full 78% of caregivers providing or arranging rides for their elder loved ones.
The good news is you can provide transportation to your senior with help from ride services and other providers near you. We make it easy to search for transport providers in your neighborhood. Simply check out our Resource Hub, and you’ll find all the information you need to organize rides for your senior.
Senior transportation: giving seniors back their freedom of mobility
What is senior transportation?
Senior transportation is a service that allows your elder loved one to preserve their independence when they can no longer transport themselves. With senior transportation services, your elder family member can go to the grocery store, visit friends, attend adult day care or doctor appointments, and participate in a range of other important activities and events.
There are a range of options when searching for senior transportation, including:
- Volunteer programs
- Paratransit services
- Nonemergency medical transportation
- Door-through-door services
- Supplemental transportation programs
- Independent transportation networks
- Call-and-ride programs
- Public transit
Although these options are distinct in many ways, they all have the potential to meet your senior’s transportation needs while preserving their sense of independence and overall well-being.
Why would my senior need transportation?
Seniors often require transportation because they have lost the ability to drive.
This may be due to a range of factors, including:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Vision impairment
- Hearing impairment
- Prescription drug usage
- Physical limitations and other mobility issues
Your senior may also need transportation services because public transport is no longer available. For example, your loved one might have relocated from a metropolitan area to a rural area where bus service is not as common.
What are some signs I should seek transportation for seniors?
You should watch carefully for signs that your senior can no longer drive safely:
- Dents and scrapes on their vehicle
- Your senior shows some new apprehension about driving
- You don’t feel safe as a passenger when they drive
- You’re receiving complaints about your senior’s driving from neighbors
- Crash injuries
It might be a good idea to tag along as a passenger while your senior drives. During these drives, assess their abilities with an open mind. Do they seem comfortable and relaxed, or does their body language suggest high levels of stress? Do they fasten their seatbelt? Do they drive at excessively slow speeds? Do they seem confused and slow to react? Do you notice several “near misses”?
Of course, it might not be necessary to analyze your senior’s driving abilities, as they may simply admit they’re no longer comfortable driving.
Perhaps you’re already giving your senior rides on a constant basis. Ask yourself how much time this takes out of your day, and consider how much time you’d save with senior transportation services.
Questions to ask yourself as you consider transportation for seniors
- What would happen if my senior got into a serious car accident?
- Does my senior seem confident in their own driving abilities?
- Do I really have time to act as my senior’s personal chauffeur?
What services does senior transportation provide?
Supplemental transportation programs for seniors
Also known simply as “STPs,” supplemental transportation programs for seniors are typically grassroots organizations run by both paid staff and volunteers. These organizations are also heavily funded through government grants and donations. The exact nature of these organizations varies from community to community, but they may offer door-to-door or door-through-door transportation. It makes sense to check whether your local community has a supplemental transportation program.
Most of us are familiar with private transportation companies. These include options like Lyft and Uber, which are sometimes referred to as “ride-sharing” services. Even though these companies might not be specifically geared toward seniors, they can provide everything your elder loved one needs, from pick-up to drop-off. Some drivers may assist seniors with shopping and bags. Of course, you might also consider traditional taxi and shuttle services.
Here are some specific private transport companies you might want to consider:
- ITN America: Also known as the Independent Transportation Network, this service is specifically reserved for seniors over the age of 60. It provides excellent support for elder individuals suffering from a range of impairments, and it operates in several states.
- GoGoGrandparent: GoGoGrandparent is also designed specifically for seniors, and it works in tandem with Uber and Lyft. Seniors are required to transfer themselves into the vehicle, but special accommodations can be made for those with mobility needs and medical equipment.
- Uber: Everyone in the modern era is now familiar with Uber, and this ride-sharing app is an excellent choice for seniors who need transportation services. You can use Uber for doctor appointments, grocery shopping, trips to the library, and much more. Uber is generally less expensive than a taxi service.
- Veyo: Veyo works hand in hand with state government agencies to provide senior transportation for Medicare and Medicaid recipients. Veyo’s drivers are all CPR-trained and subject to in-depth drug testing. Veyo is paid for through your insurance provider.
- Lyft: Like Uber, Lyft is a private ride-sharing service that has seen considerable use among seniors in need of transportation. Seniors need to get in and out of vehicles without assistance, although many local organizations may partner with Lyft to provide specialized services for seniors.
- SilverRide: SilverRide offers ride services in the San Francisco Bay area and is specifically geared toward seniors. Drivers often play a central role in planning outings, and they will help your senior in and out of the vehicle.
- Via: Via is proving to be quite popular among seniors in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. This service involves seniors sharing rides with other people, resulting in a much cheaper overall experience—plus a sense of social interaction and community often missing with other companies.
Paratransit is a flexible option for people who cannot ride public transit due to physical or cognitive disabilities. This service is heavily geared toward senior citizens, and options vary depending on the state or local municipality. In some cases, paratransit services operate just like a taxi company, and your senior can get picked up right from their doorstep in wheelchair-accessible vehicles. In other cases, seniors must adhere to a semi-regular route and request pickups ahead of time.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), cities must provide “complementary paratransit” for riders with disabilities. As long as the city has some kind of fixed-route transit system, they’re legally required to provide services to those with eligibility. Otherwise, they could be sued.
If your senior is suffering from severe physical or cognitive limitations, you might want to consider searching specifically for “door-through-door” transportation services. While other services may only pull up and wait at the curb, this care option helps seniors move from within their home to wheelchair-accessible vehicles. This is especially useful if your senior is bedridden, as staff members can move them to the transport vehicle via a stretcher.
With door-through-door services, your senior can also move to the transport vehicle without worrying about their medical equipment (such as ventilators or IV drips). Drivers and staff members are often trained to move this medical equipment along with your senior. They may also assist with wheelchairs, walkers and similar devices.
Hospitals and clinics
Many hospitals and clinics offer non-emergency medical transportation for their patients to and from appointments. This is generally a low-cost or free service, especially when covered by insurance. While this service is intended for transportation to specific facilities for scheduled appointments only, it’s a great way to ensure a senior gets the care and medical attention they need when someone else can’t be there to transport them.
Many adult day care facilities, senior centers and other services focused on older adults offer low-cost or no-cost transportation to and from their facilities. Again, these are often intended only for travel to and from a facility, but many adult day cares offer shuttle service to the grocery store, mall, events and more.
Some of the best senior transportation services are run entirely by volunteers. These programs may be faith-based, and they are almost always nonprofit. Although service may be limited, your senior has a good chance of organizing reliable rides if they reserve transport ahead of time. Expect low-cost or free service from these organizations.
Questions about senior transportation
Is senior transportation safe?
The safety and overall reliability of senior transportation services depends entirely on the care option you have chosen. Some of these companies are highly regulated by the government. Indeed, some organizations may be run by the government. Others may be private companies that do not adhere to government regulations, while some may be staffed entirely by volunteers with special training.
The good news is that it’s easy to assess the reliability of a senior transportation service by asking the right questions. At the very least, you might want to make sure that drivers and staff members are trained in CPR. Fortunately, our Resource Hub provides you with plenty of information as you assess the reliability and safety of senior transportation near you.
What questions should I ask senior transportation providers?
- How long has the company been in operation?
- Do you have insurance?
- How many vehicles do you have in your fleet?
- How often are the vehicles inspected and cleaned?
- Are your drivers and staff members specifically trained to assist seniors?
- Do you conduct background checks and drug/alcohol testing on your drivers?
- Do your drivers have training in defensive driving?
- Are your drivers trained in CPR?
- What is your policy for handling emergencies?
- What is your policy regarding wheelchairs and walkers?
- How long is the average wait time for pick-up?
- How much does your service cost?
Talking about transportation services for seniors
How to talk to family members about senior transportation
Other family caregivers may be concerned about the cost of senior transportation when you bring up this topic. To allay these concerns, point out the infeasible nature of acting as your senior’s personal chauffeur and highlight the risk associated with your senior driving a vehicle.
How to approach the topic of senior transportation with your elder loved one
Many seniors will be glad you brought up this topic, as they might be desperate to get out of the house and enjoy their independence and well-being once again.
Others may take some convincing—especially if they insist they’re perfectly able to drive. You may need to confront your senior with their past driving history or the fact their vision isn’t what it used to be. Be sure to stress the fact that with senior transportation services, they’ll be just as independent as when they had control of their vehicle.
Questions to help an elder loved one consider senior transportation
- Wouldn’t it be nice to sit back and enjoy the ride to the store?
- If you get into a bad car accident, you could never recover. Isn’t it time to let someone else take the wheel?
- Wouldn’t you like more freedom to get out and enjoy the world?
Paying for senior transportation
How much does senior transportation cost?
The cost of senior transportation depends on your senior’s unique needs, their insurance coverage and which provider they choose. Senior transportation can range in price from free to more expensive than taxis.
Can I get help paying for senior transportation?
You can get help paying for senior transportation in a number of different ways:
- Insurance: Your insurance coverage may compensate you for the cost of senior transportation. Most health care coverage – including Medicaid – is limited to transportation strictly for medical purposes based on eligibility. This means that while a trip to a doctor appointment may be covered, a trip to a ball game will not be. Medicare typically does not cover any transportation costs whatsoever.
- Senior discounts: Always be on the lookout for senior discounts when searching for transportation options. Most public transport companies offer heavily discounted rates for seniors, and it makes sense to take advantage of this whenever possible.
- Veteran’s Benefits: Veteran’s Benefits provides its own transportation services for seniors. This can help your senior get to medical appointments free of charge.
- Free programs: Remember, many senior transportation services are offered by nonprofits and faith-based groups that will not charge you a dime. It makes sense to consider these local organizations when searching for the most affordable care options.
How can I find senior transportation?
If you’ve been searching for senior transportation, look no further than our Resource Hub. This free elder-care locator provides information about senior transportation providers, home care agencies, dialysis facilities, estate planners and more in your area. You can assess and choose the most affordable, reliable and effective senior care options in your neighborhood. Start your search for the best ride services for seniors today.