As people age, it inevitably becomes harder to get around independently. This is especially the case if medical issues requiring special attention are involved. The good news is, there are actually plenty of ways for seniors to travel locally, nationally, and internationally.
First and foremost, elders who no longer feel comfortable driving or cannot drive at all can rely on family members like their children to transport them wherever they need to go. If family isn’t around though, there are still plenty of other options for transportation. Some examples include public transportation, paratransit programs, volunteer services, and senior shuttles, to name a few. Depending on the community an older individual lives in, there may be taxi voucher programs available too.
Expert Insight on Senior Mobility
Is It Time to Stop Driving?
It goes without saying that driving helps everyone stay mobile and independent. However, visual impairment is a common and inevitable issue among seniors — and this issue often causes motor vehicle accidents. Without good vision, it is a challenge to make safe decisions while driving. Night-time driving is an even bigger challenge with limited light. Generally speaking, the elderly take longer to register and distinguish things like flashing brake lights. This could pose a major safety hazard for everyone on the road. Next to health, transportation is the most prevalent issue for older people.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adult drivers on the road pose a big problem.
The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the population aged 70+ will increase from 31.7 million in 2015 to 53.7 million in 2030. This increase has led to concerns about the potential effects on traffic safety.
Seniors who are still unsure whether it’s time to stop driving may want to consider other options for getting around if they find it a struggle to see the road and drive safely during the day or night.
Common Forms of Transportation for the Elderly
Giving up driving can be a tough lifestyle change, but is often for the best when you are sensory-challenged. Not being able to get around as easily anymore can play a big role in a person’s emotional well-being, so it is important to learn of the transportation alternatives available in towns and cities of all sizes. It is important to know all your options before committing to a particular service or form of transportation. You may want to consult a loved one to get a second opinion. Luckily though, the possibilities are endless — below are just a few common ones to consider.
If possible, having family members take you around is often the best alternative to driving yourself. Chances are, your relatives are already familiar with your routine know where you need to go regularly. Most prefer having people they already know to drive them around because they can trust their driving. Not only is this usually the most convenient alternative, it is also cost and time-efficient. You won’t have to wait for a shuttle or bus to arrive. As far as cost goes, you may contribute some gas money or offer to help your loved ones with errands in exchange.
Caregivers & Home Care Aides
If you do not have family living nearby, you may consider having a caregiver or home care aide provide you with transportation when needed. Some at-home caregivers are willing to chauffeur as part of their duties. In the United States, it costs an average of $18 an hour to hire a home care aide. In addition to home caregivers, there are also caregivers that specialize in providing transportation to elderly in need. These caregivers are available for hire through local home care agencies. If you plan on doing this, you will want to make sure the agency runs background checks and screens the employees before committing to them. This is essential for your safety and to avoid potential conflict in the long run.
Public transportation is another popular way of getting around, especially for those who live in crowded cities like New York City or Chicago. Depending on where you are, you may have access to buses, light rails, subways, ferries, shuttles, and trams, for example. A perk for older individuals is that local transportation systems often offer senior discount fares or coupons. The exact cost for public transportation will vary depending on where you are and where you need to go. However, it’s usually not too expensive and with the senior discount, you can at least save some money. Buses typically can accommodate wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Some will even allow you to bring a non-disabled person on at no charge.
Public transportation is a great choice if you live in an area where it’s efficient. Unfortunately, not all cities have great public transportation. If you live in the suburbs, this becomes even more difficult. Also, depending on your mobility, you may find it a hassle to make it to the nearest bus stop or train station in the first place.
If public transportation doesn’t sound right for you, don’t worry. There are still many other options to consider!
Volunteer Transportation Programs
These programs are usually run by religious organizations or non-profits with a network of volunteers offering transportation for the elderly to go shopping, visit the doctor’s office, and more. Reservations are required, but usually it costs very little if anything. A donation is always appreciated for volunteer services.
This is pretty similar to public transportation, but on a smaller scale. If you have mobility issues or any disability, you’ll be in good hands with paratransit because this system is designed to accommodate seniors. Private agencies provide transportation to the elderly and those with disabilities by minibuses or small vans, which are equipped to handle wheelchairs and the like. Paratransit services must be scheduled in advance for transport to and from most locations in the system service area. Unlike regular public transportation where you need to wait at a stop, paratransit will pick up passengers at their homes and are more flexible in their stops.
Not everyone qualifies for paratransit services though. If you are considering this option, then you’ll need to find out if you are eligible under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means you will have to show that your mobility issues prevent you from taking regular public transportation.
If you know someone who lives nearby — perhaps a neighbor, who shares a similar routine with you, you could arrange for carpooling. For example, you could arrange a date that works best for both of you to do grocery shopping or run other similar together. Carpooling is a great way to save on gas, time, and money!
Taxis & Rideshare Services
Taxis are becoming more obsolete these days with rideshare services taking over, but they are still available. However, ridesharing tends to be the more economical choice. Popular ridesharing services include Uber and Lyft. It does require you to have some basic phone knowledge and the ability to maneuver the service applications, though. If you have a loved one familiar with how ridesharing works, you can have that person set up rides for you as needed. If you would rather not deal with that, then a taxi may be an occasional choice. The cost varies greatly depending on a variety of factors such as your location, distance traveled, and peak times.
Transportation Network Companies
Paid and volunteer drivers are available to provide door-to-door transportation service 24/7. In addition to a $40 membership fee, there is a pick up and mileage fee with a minimum charge of $9 per location. As far as cost goes, this is not the most economical choice, but may be more convenient if you don’t have someone who can drive you around and you don’t prefer public transportation.
Senior Transportation: Things to Consider
There are many things to consider when it comes to picking the best mode of transportation for yourself or your aging loved one. These things will depend largely on a variety of factors like location of residence. Below are some questions to ask and other important factors to consider when deciding on a transportation option.
Questions to Keep in Mind
Where am I going?
Depending on the location, destination, and distance, cost and convenience can both play significant factors. For example, if you are looking to travel far or into a major city, fares may be pricey.
Do I qualify for disability services?
If so, paratransit may be a promising mode of transportation.
Will a loved one be able to transport me?
Having a family member or friend drive is usually the most comfortable, convenient, and efficient. But sometimes, they may or may not be available.
What is my budget for transportation?
Setting a monthly budget for transportation every month is important, as it will help determine which transportation option is most realistic.
Depending on which mode of transportation you choose, the costs will vary. For example, taxis are way more expensive than ridesharing services. Public transportation is generally cost-effcient, and having a family member take you places could be free.
Depending on where you live, you may or may not have to walk far to a bus or train stop if you plan to take public transportation. Seniors with mobility issues may fnd it hard or impossible to walk long distances.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to spend a little more to get around, you get the luxury of convenience. Taxis, for example, are expensive but can pick up passengers at their front doors.
Safety & Comfort Level
- Getting into a stranger’s car may feel uncomfortable for some.
- If you are in an unfamiliar area, making transfers and taking public transportation can be scary.
- Have a disability? Not all transportation options are equal when it comes to safety if you rely on a walker or wheelchair to get around.
If you can afford to wait around, public transportation can be a great and cost-effcient way to get places. However, if you need to be somewhere at a specifc time, then you will have to plan accordingly and give yourself a bit more time. Public transportation schedules can be sporadic depending on where you live. If this is the case, then you may want to look into other options like having someone drive you. Ridesharing services these days will tell you exactly on their phone applications when you can expect the driver to arrive.
Planning to utilize a local transportation service? You may have to schedule a pickup in advance.
Evaluating a Transportation Provider
Once you have an idea of potentially which transportation providers you would like to move forward with, it’s time to dig a little deeper. Knowing the answers ahead of time will save you the hassle and headache of needing to figure it out on the spot. Here are some questions to think about:
- Is there a membership fee? If so, what are the terms and how much does it cost?
- Is a reservation needed? If so, how far in advance?
- Are any discounts available for seniors?
- Are rides provided on holidays, weekends, and evenings?
- Are there any requirements to qualify for the service? If so, what are they?
- Can family members tag along? If so, is there an additional charge?
- What is the service area?
- Will the driver help with bags, wheelchairs, etc.?
- Is the service door-to-door?
- Is the transportation provider wheelchair-friendly and good for disabled people?
- If there are others riding at the same time, what is the maximum time for pick up and drop off?
- Does my insurance help pay for my rides?
Useful Resources & Apps for Getting Around
With technology being so prevalent in our lives today, it’s safe to say that there are a plethora of useful resources and applications to help seniors travel. Below are some popular apps and tools that you may find beneficial:
Medical Transportation Choices
Getting around to complete errands, visit a friend, or to go see a movie is one thing, but making it to doctor’s appointments is another. It’s especially important to show up to these appointments for the sake of your health and well-being. With that said, it may not be realistic to rely on public transportation when it comes to medical situations. Luckily, there are other options that are affordable and more convenient when medical necessity comes into the picture.
Some insurance providers include transportation for medical purposes. If this is so for you, then you can expect a vehicle to pick you up at home and take you to your appointment. You will want to call your insurance provider to see if your health coverage provides this service, and if so, find out what the limitations are. Medicaid generously covers most of medical transportation costs.
If your insurance does not cover transportation to your routine doctor’s appointments, there are other independent services you can look into. Many areas offer local organizations that provide low-cost, non-emergency medical transportation to aging individuals who don’t drive, or have limited mobility.
Seniors staying at an assisted living facility may have access to transportation services depending on the facility. Some offer discounts, and a certain amount may be included in monthly rent.
Going the Distance
You might have your local travel covered, but what about long distance travel? Traveling abroad can be a challenge for anyone, let alone an aging individual. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, though. In your senior years, you may find the need to visit a loved one, tend to an emergency overseas, or simply wish to explore the world.
If you are thinking about traveling far, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor before leaving, to discuss any medical issues that may pose some challenges along the way. Doctors may also be able to give you recommendations for how to travel, or what can be done to make the trip as swift as possible.
After you get everything squared away with your doctor, it’s time to determine whether you plan on flying or going on a road trip, and whether you’ll be traveling alone or with a companion. If you have mobility issues, it is highly advised that you have a close friend or family member go with you — preferably someone who is familiar with your medical history and can help you should an emergency arise.
Traveling by air can be stressful, but there are measures you can take to make your trip hassle-free. Prior to booking your flight, check with the airline and airports to see if they can accommodate your needs. You’ll also want to inform the airline of your needs early on so that they can determine whether or not you can travel safely with them. For example, if you have any dietary restrictions, it’s important that the airline can cater to your special needs while you are on the plane. If you need a wheelchair or assistance through airport security, they’ll also benefit from knowing in advance.
There are many benefits of traveling by car. Your schedule may be more flexible, you can make as many stops as you please, and you can travel with several people without worrying about extra costs, for example. However, it can also be a challenge if you are not prepared. Sitting in a confined space for hours or even days straight can be tough, so you will want to schedule out bathroom and stretch breaks so that your body can move and get some fresh air. Prior to leaving, you’ll also want to get the car checked and make sure everything is good to go.
Just because you are getting older doesn’t mean you have to stop moving. You may not be able to drive, but there are still many ways to get around. Losing the ability to get around can be debilitating to seniors at first, but it’s not hard to adapt with so many different modes of transportation available to suit various lifestyles. These methods of getting around promote active aging and foster independence among the elderly. If you are not able to drive safely, you can always rely on public transportation, ride sharing, or consider hiring a personal driver to get you around — whether you need to go to an event, meet a friend, or run errands.