As seniors age many choose to, or are forced to, give up their driver's license due to age or illness related impairments. But how do they continue to be mobile, conserve their independence, and take care of their daily necessities; getting to the doctors, seeing family and friends, buying groceries, and filling their prescriptions? Most seniors prefer to stay in their home, aging in place, so finding a safe, affordable, and reliable means of transportation is absolutely necessary. Some are fortunate to have family or friends who can drive them, but that option may not be the most viable for everyone.
Various transportation services are available to seniors and their caregivers. The National Center on Senior Transportation offers a variety of resources and links to local services. It's important to investigate several local agencies and keep in mind several factors including; the physical needs of the senior (now and in the near future), eligibility requirements, convenience and accessibility, and the cost of the service.
Does the service offer;
- Wheel chair accessibility?
- Door to door service?
- Low vehicle entry point?
- Driver assistance (entry into vehicle, carrying packages/carry-ons)?
Are there eligibility requirements?
- Are evaluations required?
How accessible is the service?
- What is the service area?
- What are the hours or operation?
- Are reservations required?
- Is there evening, weekend, and holiday service?
- Are rides provided to social as well as shopping and medical appointments
- What is the maximum length of time for the ride if dropping off & picking up other passengers?
What is the cost of the service?
- Is my income a factor?
- Are discounts available?
- Is there a membership fee?
- Will my insurance cover the cost of the service?
- Can an account be created to pay for service in advance?
Review your physical and transportation needs to select the type of service that works best for you. What are your destinations and what are the transportation services available in your area.
Volunteer Driver Programs
These are programs run by non-profits and faith based organizations throughout the country. They generally offer one-way, round trip or multi -destination transport at no cost or for a minimal fee (they may encourage donations). Reservations are required to secure a volunteer driver.
Public or private transit organizations that provide curb-to-curb or door-to-door (call to verify) fall under this category. Their fleet is usually made up of small buses or vans that provide multiple passengers rides to various locations. Reservations are required. Paratransit services offer reduced fares for the elderly and disabled but may request a written and/or personal evaluation to confirm both mental and physical ability to take part in the service.
This service is run primarily by private agencies, and offers various levels of personalized support for the passenger, including opening doors, providing verbal guidance and physical support in and out of the vehicle and to the front door. This service can be ideal for customers with severe mental and physical disabilities. Contact your local area agency on aging to confirm availability and costs.
Public Transportation (fixed route service)
Often referred to mass transit this is a bus and rail scheduled fixed route service available in a geographic area. Reduced rates and special services are often available to seniors and passengers with disabilities. Information on these services can be gained by contacting your local public transit agency.
This service can be accessed by calling a taxi company dispatcher and requesting or scheduling a pick-up. Some companies can accommodate passengers in wheel chairs or with disabilities. Call to confirm this is available. There is a base fee plus a per mile or per minute fee charged. Some companies do accept transportation vouchers (see below.)
Transportation Voucher Programs
Fare assistance programs are provided by social service agencies, Area Agencies on Aging and disability resource centers throughout the country. There is an application process that everyone must complete. Contact each individual organization to access information on eligibility and local availability. Participants are able to purchase transportation vouchers at a reduced rate that they can then use when traveling by public transit, taxi or when using various services including, volunteer driver programs, and public & private paratransit services.