It’s interesting to find helpful, aging-related articles in unlikely places. At least, that’s how we reacted when we ran across this article that appeared very recently on the political website Politico. As part of a special report called Aging in America, Politico published an insightful analysis on one way some people are seeking to solve a growing transportation crisis among seniors, by turning to popular ride-sharing startups like Lyft and Uber to help non-driving seniors get around.
The article, written by Politico transportation reporter Tanya Snyder, is called “Uber, but for Grandma.” As Snyder writes, “A graying America is also an America that is gradually, reluctantly, sometimes painfully giving up its keys. Driving can be dangerous for people with slowed reflexes and cognitive functioning, but not driving can be dangerous too: A lack of independent mobility leads many seniors to miss medical appointments and can isolate them from the social support network that is clinically shown to prolong life.” This sense of isolation is made worse by the fact that many seniors live far from family members who might be able to provide the occasional ride, and public transit may be an unreliable or even non-existent option in many car-dependent cities, towns and suburbs. “Faced with long rides on multiple trains and buses with unpredictable schedules,” says Politico, “many seniors end up just staying home.”
However, the landscape in the U.S. is changing, and some of these changes may be able to help solve – at least partially – the challenge of “rideless” seniors. “Today’s seniors,” writes Snyder in her article, “are also aging at a time of rapidly multiplying transportation options in the private sector, with ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft at the front of the pack. Those companies blossomed amid the millennial-oriented sharing economy, serving wired young urbanites accustomed to meeting all their needs via smartphone. For some seniors, they represent the same kind of lifeline—although they also pose some new challenges.” According to the article, both Uber and Lyft have begun to see the potential in senior transportation and are offering custom services to attract this new clientele, but the companies say it’s still too early to tell how well a service created for a young, highly mobile generation can meet the needs of another generation often hobbled by age-impaired mobility.
Here’s just one basic problem: services like Uber and Lyft are dependent on smart phones, owned by more than three-fourths of the U.S. population but barely 40 percent of those 65-plus. Another difficulty, says Politico, is that many seniors who need help with getting around use walkers and wheelchairs, which often don’t fit into the vehicles Uber and Lyft drivers use. Then there’s the challenge of training the drivers, who may be used to hauling twenty-somethings home from the club in the evening, in how to manage the needs of a passenger three times older. But the companies are responding by setting up third-party services in some cities through which seniors can request services with a simple phone call, and they’re exploring other ways to make ride-sharing more accessible, more affordable and less scary for seniors who need rides but lack the tech-savvy skills to request them.
This issue of seniors not being able to get out and about is a significant problem, writes Snyder in Politico. “Transportation might sound like a secondary issue for older Americans, compared with massive needs like health care, but it’s almost as essential and gets far less public investment and policy attention,” she says. “Getting around often represents the single biggest challenge of being old. Resource hotlines for elders report that transportation is the No. 1 reason people call – and often, they’re desperately looking for a ride to the doctor the next day. Lack of transportation access is a primary reason older people move into assisted-living facilities, a life change many would prefer not to make.” Right now the majority of seniors live in areas not well served by reliable, affordable, simple-to-use public transit, and even subsidized options like the para-transit mini-buses offered in many major cities have their limitations (including income thresholds which disqualify some middle-income seniors). We expect as today’s boomers age that they’ll demand more and better transit solutions.
As you and your loved ones make housing decisions for your retirement years, we encourage you to read articles like the one in Politico (again, here’s the link) because they will definitely provide food for thought for future planning. No one wants to be a burden to his or her loved ones as they age, so maintaining an appropriate degree of independence is vitally important, but finding out that your transportation options are severely limited can rob you of that independence quickly. It’s vital that you plan ahead and consider basic, yet essential, issues such as transportation as you make your housing choices. In the same way, here at AgingOptions we urge you to plan ahead for all the vital aspects of retirement – finances, legal affairs, and medical protection, in addition to family communications and housing decisions.
There is a proven solution that guarantees that all these facets of retirement are thoroughly covered in your retirement planning – a solution called an AgingOptions LifePlan. We urge you to find out more about the LifePlanning process by joining Rajiv Nagaich soon for a free LifePlanning Seminar. In just a few hours we’ll cover a wide array of the topics that are of vital interest to retirees, and we’ll demonstrate for you, without cost or obligation, the power of a LifePlan. We assure you, this will be time very well spent. For details and online registration, click here, or contact us so we can assist you by phone. We’ll look forward to meeting you at an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar near you!
(originally reported at www.politico.com)