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Senior Transportation Guide

By Sixty and Me March 08, 2021 Aging

Finding the best transportation option as a senior can be confusing. For many, age related medical issues mean they can no longer safely drive. If you no longer hold a driving license what are your options? The first port of call will often be family. Asking a relative to drive to the shops or medical appointment is direct, easy and can require little notice. But what if this isn’t an option? We take a look at all the senior transportation options available. 

Public Transportation

If you live in a big town or city, public transportation is a popular way to travel. Depending on your location the mode of transport can vary from buses, trams, subways, light rail, ferries and shuttles. Timetables are published in advance so it is easy to plan your journey, but it is worth remembering that delays can be common and the transport may run late. If you have to take more than one public transport, ensure you leave enough time for any platform or stop changes. 

Public transportation can typically accommodate wheelchairs and mobility scooters, however you should check your specific route in advance. Always make sure you ask if any senior discount is available on your fare.

Pros: Fixed routes with set published timetables make it relatively easy to navigate. If your plans change, you can just catch the next bus/train/ferry etc. that fits with your schedule. Many services offer a discount on fare for seniors.

Cons: If you live in a smaller town or rural area your public transportation options may be limited. Most public transport also runs on fixed routes, so it may not be practical if your destination is not near a public transportation stop. If you travel at peak times, transport may be busy. 

Volunteer Transportation Programs

These programs are usually reserved for seniors and run by a local area agency on aging, religious organization or charity. Many offer door-to-door or curb-to-curb transportation and will drive residents to a number of locations such as the shops or a medical appointment. 

Reservations are mostly required a number of days in advance but the cost of transportation is often very low, if not free. The mode of transportation varies between programs with some using mini buses and others using volunteers in their own cars. 

Pros: Direct transportation from home to destination. The driver may often be the same each trip, making it safe, friendly and personal. 

Cons: Transportation usually has to be booked in advance and may not always be available.

Caregiver & Home Care

Transportation is often included in the service packages offered by care providers or home care aides. It can be a great option if independent living is a key priority, but some added help around the house with daily tasks is required. The cost varies based on location and services required, but basic packages consisting of just homemaker jobs such as help with cooking, cleaning and transportation are often towards the cheaper end of the scale. 

Pros: Great option if looking for additional help at home alongside transportation. 

Cons: It can be expensive and not suitable if you don’t require additional help at home. 

Non Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT)

Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) are transportation services offered to patients and healthcare consumers who face barriers getting to medical appointments. A required Medicaid benefit, other healthcare entities and private insurers also provide this service. A 2017 AHA report noted that 3.6 million individuals did not have access to medical care due to lack of appropriate transportation to appointments. 

Some hospitals have designed their own NEMT programs to combat this issue and formed Ridesharing partnerships with companies such as Uber or Lyft, to allow patients to hail a ride through the familiar smartphone interface.

Pros:  Specialised transport ensuring people who need to seek medical care can do so before it becomes an emergency. 

Cons: NEMT service differs between states. Some require pre-authorization, others require patients to pay a copayment for the transportation service (although this is usually a nominal fee). 

Paratransit

Often run in parallel with public transport, Paratransit services cater specifically for those who meet a specific criteria. Most providers follow guidelines from the Americans with Disabilities Act. Rides usually need to be booked at least a day in advance, but unlike public transport, Paratransit usually offers door-to-door transportation. Service area and rider criteria will differ between providers so it is best to check their website to ensure you qualify. 

Pros: Reliable ride for seniors with mobility issues who are otherwise unable to use public transportation. 

Cons: Strict criteria which won’t apply to all seniors. In smaller towns or rural areas, paratransit services may not be available. Journeys need to be booked in advance. 

Carpooling

If you have friends or neighbors that you trust and who own a car, carpooling can be a great alternative to public transportation. You can arrange a time that suits you both and run errands together. 

Pros: Travelling with a friend or neighbor can feel safe and less overwhelming than travelling alone. They may also be able to help and accompany you once at the destination. 

Cons: Not all seniors will have access to carpooling opportunities. Friends and neighbors may also not be available during the day if they have work commitments. 

Rideshare Services

Over the last few years ridesharing has become an increasingly popular way to travel. Rides are set up using an app on a phone which also holds your payment details. Once the destination is entered your journey is accepted by a driver who will pick you up and drop you at your destination. Rides can also be set up by a friend or loved one on your behalf if they are more comfortable using a rideshare app. Some services allow you to rate your driver with their average rating visible to customers, so you can ensure your driver comes highly rated.  

Rideshare Services usually work out a bit cheaper than a traditional taxi and the cost is usually given in advance. 

Pros: If comfortable using a smartphone, this can be an easy and convenient way to arrange transport, fitting in around your schedule. 

Cons: Requires use of a smartphone or someone who can organise the ride for you. Ridesharing services are not available in all areas. 

Taxi Services

Taxi’s can be pre-arranged over the phone to pick you up at a specific time and location. In larger cities, they also operate from ranks or can be flagged down on the street. The cost of your journey can vary based on traffic, duration and distance. You should also check if you are required to pay in cash or card, as it can vary between companies. 

Pros: Can be arranged with a simple phone call. Transport you directly from home to destination. 

Cons: Prices can vary based on a range of factors. 

Things to Consider

Depending on your circumstances, there are a number of things you may need to consider when choosing the best transportation option for you:

  • Check what services are available in your area. In bigger towns or cities, most of the transportation options described above will be available, however, in more rural areas the options may be limited. 
  • What is your transportation budget? Having your weekly budget in mind will allow you to narrow down the best mode of transportation for you. 
  • Comfort Level – If your mobility is limited, door-to-door transportation may be the best option rather than public transport. If you rely on a wheelchair, check the different options available as some transportation may not be fully wheelchair accessible. 
  • Safety Level – Getting into a strangers car can be uncomfortable for some seniors. Carpooling with a friend or a volunteer transportation service which uses the same driver may be most appealing. 
  • Your knowledge of the area can impact the best transportation option. Public transport will have many stops on route, and if you are unfamiliar with the area it can be daunting to know when to get off. 
  • Your schedule will also play a part in choosing the best transportation. If you are going to the shops then a transport delay may not cause too much of an impact. If you are attending an appointment at a set time, you will want to ensure you choose an option that you can rely on to get you there on time.  

Senior Transportation Resources – National

With so many options, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. The transportation providers and services below operate nationwide or across multiple states. Links to specific transportation providers for each state are listed in the following section. 

DAV Transportation Network – Providing free transportation services to ensure injured or ill veterans are able to get to their medical appointments.

Envoy America – Friendly Driver Companion, providing door-to-door service that encompasses transportation plus assistance and companionship. Available in 22 cities. 

GoGoGrandparent – Making transportation & delivery services reliable and easy for people living with age related impairments. Call the phone number and request an Uber or Lyft, home delivered meals, grocery deliveries or medication management. 

Home Instead – Homecare involving transportation services to enable seniors to travel to medical appointments, pick up groceries and more. 

ITNAmerica – National network of senior ride companies and the only national non-profit senior transportation network. Offers door-through-door transportation making it a good option for older adults who need assistance getting in and out of a car and through the door to their destination. Not available in all states. 

LogistiCare – the nation’s largest manager of non-emergency medical transportation operating in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Lyft – Great if you are comfortable using a smartphone app and able to get in and out of a car without assistance. Book a ride, have a car at your location within minutes, pay automatically with stored card details through the app when the ride is finished.

Managed Medical Transport – Provide long distance non-emergency transportation from Maine to California, and everywhere in between.

National Express Transit (NEXT) – provides on-demand, curb-to-curb or door-to-door paratransit service in cities and communities across the United States.

Right at Home Transport –  Providing seniors with quick and easy access to transportation any time day or night. Easily accessible vehicles with trunks large enough for a wheelchair or walker. Not available in all states. 

Uber – On demand car service booked through a smart phone app. Good option for older adults able to get in and out of a car without assistance and confident using smartphone apps. 

Uber Assist – On demand car service booked through a smart phone app. Every Uber Assist driver has completed training about how to help riders into vehicles and are able to help load and unload assistive devices that can fit in the trunk of a standard sedan once folded or disassembled. Not available in all locations depending on driver availability. 

Veterans Transportation Program (VTP) – Offers Veterans many travel solutions to and from their VA health care facilities. 

Veyo – Non Emergency Medical Transportation Management. Veyo manages the transportation benefits of specific states Medicaid and Medicare populations (not available in all states). To discover whether you are able to use Veyo services, reach out to your health insurance plan. 

Senior Transportation Resources By State

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The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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