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 seniors transportation to medical appointments, shopping and more. These services might charge a small fee or accept donations, and often operate with a network of volunteer drivers.
To search for volunteer driving programs in your area, visit NationalVolunteerTransportationCenter.org — click on “Map of Volunteer Driver Programs.”
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 (Uber.com) and Lyft (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 (GoGo Grandparent.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 who 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 Care.com or CareLinx.com.
Private business transportation services: Some hospitals, health clinics, senior centers, adult day centers, malls or other businesses offer transportation for program participants or customers.
Mass transit: Public transportation (buses, trains, subways, etc.), where available, can also be an affordable option and might offer senior reduced rates.
Where to look
To find out what transportation services are available in your mom’s area, contact Rides in Sight (RidesInSight.org, 855-607-4337) and the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116), which will direct you to her area agency on aging for assistance. You should also contact local senior centers, places of worship and retirement communities for other possible options.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.