Dear Savvy Senior,
Where can I find out about alternative transportation options for my elderly mother? She needs to give up driving, but before she does, we need to figure out how she'll get around.
Alternative transportation services vary widely by community, so what's available to your mom will depend on where she lives. Here's what you should know.
For starters it's important to know that while most urban areas offer seniors a variety of transportation services, the options may be few to none for those living in the suburbs, small towns and rural areas. Alternative transportation is an essential link in helping seniors who no longer drive get to their doctor's appointments, stores, social activities and more.
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 by far 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.
Local transportation programs: These are usually sponsored by nonprofit organizations that serve seniors. These services may charge a nominal fee or accept donations and often operate with the help of volunteer drivers.
Also check out the Independent Transportation Network (itnamerica.org), which is a national nonprofit that has 27 affiliate transportation programs in 23 states. With this program, seniors pay membership dues and fees based on mileage. And, most programs will let your mom donate her car in return for credits toward future rides.
Demand response services: Often referred to as "dial-a-ride" or "elderly and disabled transportation service," these are typically 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.
Taxi or car service: These private services offer flexible scheduling but can be expensive, however, they're cheaper than owning a car. Some taxi/car services may be willing to set up accounts that allow other family members to pay for services and some may offer senior discounts. Be sure to ask.
Another option to look into is ride-sharing services, which connects people with cars, with people who need rides. Uber (uber.com), Lyft (lyft.com) and Sidecar (side.cr) are three of the largest companies offering services in dozens of cities across the U.S.
Private program services: Some hospitals, health clinics, senior centers, adult day centers, malls or other businesses may offer transportation for program participants or customers. And some nonmedical home-care agencies that bill themselves as providing companionship and running errands or doing chores may also provide transportation.
Mass transit: Public transportation (buses, trains, subways, etc.) where available, can also be an affordable option and may offer senior reduced rates.
Hire someone: If your mom lives in an area where there are limited or no transportation services available, another option to consider is to pay someone in the community to drive her. Consider hiring a neighbor, retiree, high school or college student that has a flexible schedule and wouldn't mind making a few extra bucks.
Where to Look
To find out what transportation services are available in your mom's community, contact the Rides in Sight national toll-free call center at 855-607-4337 (or see ridesinsight.org), and the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116), which will direct you to her area agency on aging for assistance.
Also contact local senior centers, places of worship and retirement communities for other possible options. And check with her state department of transportation at www.fhwa.dot.gov/webstate.htm, and the American Public Transportation Association at publictransportation.org.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.