The ability to get around is critical for many older adults. A lack of accessible transportation options can be a significant barrier for those who choose to live independently and avoid entering a long-term care facility.
Making a transportation plan is important before an older adult gives up driving. This includes creating a list of destinations and researching transportation options available to them.
Many older adults find it difficult to maintain their independence after losing the ability to drive. Using public transportation is one solution, but it can be limited in some ways and requires planning ahead. It can also be expensive. In addition, the physical limitations of some seniors can make transferring from vehicle to platform or seat challenging.
Local governments, aging services agencies, and private companies provide public transportation options for seniors. These typically include paratransit services that pick people up from curbside and transport them to their destination. These are usually available during non-rush hour periods. Some offer door-through-door service and are flexible in terms of service routes.
Options include accessible community buses, nearby trains for people with disabilities, some with volunteer programs by faith-based or non-profit groups offering rides for donations. Costs are less than taxis but more than driving. Local agencies and aging services provide transit training. Learn scheduling, ticketing, accessing accessible vehicles, and local transit types.
While many elders turn to family members for rides, this can become expensive and put undue strain on caregivers already busy with other caregiving responsibilities. It can also put a strain on aging family members’ vehicles, which are not designed to handle the additional wear and tear of frequent trips. Private transportation services for seniors are more expensive than public transportation, but they can be a cost-effective option for some seniors who do not have the time or energy to plan and coordinate their own rides. They also provide greater flexibility, including on-demand and same-day scheduling. Some even have vehicles equipped to accommodate motorized wheelchairs, although these are usually available only in urban areas and suburbs.
The majority of older adults want to stay in their homes and take an active part in society, but they need transportation to run errands, participate in social activities, and visit friends, family, and doctors. Lack of accessible transportation can result in missed health appointments and isolation. Moreover, it can lead to poorer health outcomes and higher costs.
Public transportation is important, but it is often limited or nonexistent in rural areas and suburbs where the majority of seniors live. In addition, many elderly people do not have a driver’s license and cannot drive. This is why providing a range of transportation options is important, including volunteer driver programs, taxi vouchers, and other innovative solutions tailored to local community needs.
Private firms offer senior concierge services connecting them with on-demand rides via Uber, Lyft, like GoGoGrandparent with dedicated drivers, or Veyo partnering for Medicare-covered medical transportation. Smartphone apps like Uber and Lyft offer easy, safe travel, showing car distance, driver info, and destination. No smartphone? Call using provided numbers.
If you don’t have access to a smartphone or aren’t comfortable using an app, try calling your county’s Area Agency on Aging. They will be able to provide you with a list of local government transportation programs. You can also find programs on ElderCareLocator by entering your zip code. Some local governments may even have their own bus services. These can be convenient if your home is close to the bus stop or if you are familiar with the route.
Whether going to doctor appointments, a grocery store, or a community event, older adults need transportation to life-sustaining and life-enriching destinations. Without adequate access to affordable, safe, and convenient elderly transportation services, many seniors will stay home and miss out on the socialization and activities key to healthy aging.
Fortunately, a number of solutions are available to address this growing concern. Many communities are establishing supplemental transportation programs, including volunteer driver programs, to help older adults remain mobile. For example, the National Center on Senior transportation services provides extensive resources, publications, and guides on transportation options and strategies.
Local planners are also establishing community driver programs through regional public transportation providers. These networks of volunteer drivers offer cost-effective transportation for individuals who live beyond the reach of regular fixed-route bus services and do not have a personal vehicle. These include older adults, individuals with disabilities, and Medicaid recipients.
These programs typically provide rides to and from medical and social services appointments. In addition, some volunteer drivers are available for community shopping trips. Programs may be funded through a variety of avenues, including program sponsorship, mileage reimbursement, information, and referral programs, risk management and insurance support, driver training and program staffing, and vehicle acquisition.
Innovative programs use “neighbor-to-neighbor” model for affordable rural senior transportation services. For instance, It Takes A Village 10591 in New York employs volunteers for medical visits, social outings, and errands. While most programs aid seniors, some like Road to Recovery expand to children, disabled, veterans, and cancer patients. Learn more from Mass Mobility and National Center for Senior Transportation reports.
A lack of reliable transportation is a significant barrier to completing instrumental activities of daily living (ADLs) and aging in place. It also contributes to social isolation, which has been linked to poorer health outcomes in older adults. As a result, it’s important to provide safe, accessible, and reliable senior transportation services for those who choose not to drive or cannot safely operate their own vehicles.
Several communities have public transportation systems that can take seniors from one point to another without changing routes or schedules. These services are usually free for eligible individuals or run at a low cost. In addition, many churches and charitable groups provide community transportation through a network of volunteers who pick up seniors at their homes and provide rides to their destinations for a small fee or donation.
For those unable to reach bus stops or uncomfortable traveling in bad weather, local transport authorities are creating solutions. Demand-response systems operate on a call-ahead basis, providing door-to-door service, bypassing fixed stops and route navigation. Local aging agencies and centers often offer financial help with fares case by case. Some health insurers cover trips for those with chronic conditions. Best solution for non-driving seniors is a mix of public and private options. Customize transport based on regular destinations through a personalized plan.