Did you know? By 2030, an estimated 20 percent of U.S. residents will be aged 65 and over – a huge proportional jump from 13 percent in 2010 and just 9.8 percent in 1970? And yet,
The average American outlives his or her ability to drive by 6 to 10 years. Personal transportation for seniors must be tapped to fill the gap.
Social and logistical independence is important for seniors. From running everyday errands to maintaining friendships, transportation is a lifeline – an escape from loneliness and isolation, a necessity of living alone, and the means to other life-prolonging (and quality-of-life-improving) benefits.
So, if your parents or senior loved ones can no longer drive, or no longer want to drive, what can you do? What personal transportation options exist? And, which will work best for the seniors you love most?
The stereotype of seniors clinging to their driver’s licenses is based in fact – and fear. A study from the Beverly Foundation found that seniors continue driving, “as long as possible because they are unaware of, or do not believe they have, alternative means of transportation.”
Of course, a lack of alternate transportation does not mean that seniors should continue to drive. Let’s review the facts:
Bottom line: Many seniors will reach a time when they’re no longer equipped to drive safely. And yet, most aged adults will continue driving until the last possible moment, at which point, according to the Beverly Foundation, they “are so disabled that they are unable to use most public and para-transit systems.”
The truth is, many seniors would be safer and more comfortable, if they had easy access to alternate personal transportation. So, what are the options?
Option #1: Medicaid Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT)
Did you know that Medicaid provides non-emergency transportation to and from medical services? To qualify for NEMT services, seniors must:
Of course, this covers only transportation to and from medical appointments. So, what about the other 99% of the time?
Option #2: Public Transportation
If you’re located in an area served by public transportation, then you’re in luck! Public trains, subways, buses, and other transport can be a great choice for seniors, especially if they’re still relatively mobile. But if not…
Option #3: Paratransit Services
If the elders in your life require wheelchairs or have other disabilities, research the availability of ADA para-transit services in your area. These services may be operated both privately or publicly, and typically supplement fixed bus and rail routes in your area.
The general rule for paratransit services states that vans and microbuses must be equipped with ADA facilities, and must run within 3/4 mile of existing bus/train stations, on the same schedules, and for no more than 2x the cost of standard fares.
Option #4: Supplemental Transportation Programs for Seniors (STPs)
In many urban and metro areas, organizations operate STPs: low-cost, community-based, and independently-funded transportation services for seniors. Often staffed by volunteers, these programs are funded through a variety of grants and donations, enabling them to offer highly responsive, relatively economical on-demand transportation.
Option #5: Door-through-Door Private Transportation
In many urban, suburban, and even some rural communities, taxi services and private transportation agencies are geared to seniors and offer on-demand, door-to-door, and even door-through-door transportation. Senior-friendly services offer help with walkers, wheelchairs, and bags (including grocery bags), for a mileage- and time-based fee.
Option #6: Volunteer Driver Programs
Social programs, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and other volunteer organizations often gather around cities, suburban communities, and senior living hotspots to offer free and low-cost transportation for seniors.
For information on these options, plus availability in your local area, we recommend contacting your nearest Area Agency on Aging. Additionally, AAA (the American Automobile Association, not the Area Agency on Aging) offers resources for finding senior transportation services near you, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an eldercare locator, complete with information on sourcing elder transportation near you.
Motivated by a strong interest in issues that affect older adults in his own family, Rodolfo shares a wide variety of valuable and authoritative information that helps seniors and their loved ones. He has been writing relevant and well-researched articles for more than a decade, including many on topics related to senior living, health, recreation, and caregiving. He also writes about careers and education.