At Neptune Society, we know that seniors of all ages often want to remain mobile throughout retirement. Whether that means traveling the country or making weekly trips to the local grocery store, we also know accessible transportation isn’t always easy to find. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of transportation options for seniors who don’t drive, including the pros and cons of each option.
Public Transportation Routes
Public transportation is a relatively inexpensive way to get around most cities and towns. Two common forms of mass public transit you might take advantage of include bus routes and metro or subway routes. The pros of public transportation include low fares, the ability to access local programs for assistance paying those fares and the reliability of routes. Disadvantages include a need to live near city routes, the fact that you might have to walk to stations or stops and a lack of accessibility.
Not all mass transit options are readily accessible for individuals who rely on wheelchairs or walkers. To find out if buses in your city offer wheelchair ramps or lifts, visit your city’s government website or call local transit authority offices. Also ask for information about fare discount programs. Many metro areas offer reduced fares for senior citizens, and you might be eligible for fare assistance if you are on a fixed income.
The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center publishes educational resources for seniors and communities. One brochure helps cities make bus stops safe and accessible, but the information in the download might also help seniors better evaluate services to ensure they are safe to use.
Taxi services are a good option for seniors who live in suburban or rural areas just outside of the city. These services don’t rely on geography as heavily as mass transit solutions do, and you can have the service pick you up at your home. Other benefits of taxi services include as-needed scheduling and one-on-one assistance which can be helpful if you are carrying items or have a walker or cane. The biggest disadvantage of taxi services is the cost when compared to mass transit.
Find traditional taxi services in your area by starting with the phone book or a Google search online. Browsing listings online lets you read reviews, making it more likely you connect with a quality company and find out about accessibility options. You can also download a number of taxi apps if you have a smartphone. Apps such as Easy Taxi let you hail a cab from your mobile device.
In some areas, you can save money by using a crowd service such as Uber, though most experts recommend approaching Uber and similar models with caution. If you are unfamiliar with crowd services, consider asking for assistance the first few times you use the application, and if you are ever uncomfortable with the situation when your Uber driver does arrive, don’t hesitate to change your mind.
Volunteer Driving Programs
Organizations such as community centers, churches, and nonprofits often run volunteer driving programs. Individuals volunteer to drive others to and from medical appointments or on errands. The benefit of such programs is that the organization has usually provided at least basic vetting of volunteers, so you can ride with less risk and without any cost to you. The disadvantage is that volunteer time is usually limited, so you have to schedule rides well in advance and you might not always have a ride when you need it.
For information about volunteer driving programs in your area, contact community centers and churches. If you have accessibility issues, make sure you specify those up front. Some organizations allow volunteers to drive individuals in their own cars while others have accessible vans for transportation purposes.
Medical Facility Transportation
Some medical facilities offer limited transportation options for patients who cannot get to the clinics or hospitals. While most stand-alone physician offices can’t afford to run such programs, if your doctor is part of a larger group or works in a hospital complex, they might offer low-cost or free medical van transportation for appointments.
If your provider doesn’t offer transportation, businesses and community organizations often specialize in medical transport or paratransit services. Benefits of professional medical transport include wheelchair accessible vehicles and drivers and assistants who might be trained to handle minor medical issues. Some medical transport services are also covered under state Medicaid plans, especially if you have to travel outside of your geographic area for specialty, non-emergency medical care.
Finding Community and Paratransit Services
For many seniors, the biggest obstacle to accessible transportation is simply finding out about the service. Instead of spending hours on the phone tracking down transportation options, start with Eldercare.gov. Using the site’s community assistance locator, you can specify your zip code or city and search for resources and services related to transportation. Eldercare.gov also provides a free booklet you can download detailing additional options for transportation as a senior who doesn’t drive.