Is Ride Share a Good Option for Grandma?

Top concerns include safety, accessibility, and tech saviness

By Leah Felderman  

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If your elderly loved one no longer drives, the most ideal option is to have regular home care that includes transport to both scheduled appointments and non-scheduled outings. Transportation to scheduled medical appointments is essential! If you are extremely fortunate you may even have on-call options, from individuals or organizations, for non-scheduled situations.

Related: My Elderly Parents Need Help with Transportation

For non-scheduled, non-emergency transport many seniors still call for a cab. This is a viable option but pricey, and unfortunately some areas have limited taxi service. If the taxi service in your area is too exorbitant or not reliable enough, do you think Grandma is ready for a ride share service?

Taxi vs. Ride Share

Taxi driver license requirements vary from state to state and may include additional screenings such as prior traffic violations, criminal background checks, and finger printing. Requirements for taxi companies (and other chauffeuring enterprises such as town car hires and limo companies) also vary by state, and sometimes also by municipalities within the state. Larger metro areas tend to have more extensive requirements and often require companies to conform to additional standards such as employee screening, employee training, safety provisions, vehicle conformity and inspections, etc.

When entering a taxi you can run the gamut of experience, from the committed professionals with driving as their sole occupation to new drivers experimenting with a supplementary job. With the larger taxi chains, they are participating in a brand that comes with that extra reassurance that driver and vehicles are conforming to a specific standard. However, having a licensed professional and a known brand is not always a guarantee, and comes at a cost!

When using a ride share, you may get a Lyft from a teeny-tiny Smart car or take a ride in an Uber-lifted SUV. As with taxis, there are a wide range of drivers; you may get the recently retired gentleman with years of safe driving experience or the lead-foot college student looking to supplement their tuition fees. Thanks to the unregulated nature of ride share services, you are also more likely to have a driver with prior DUI or felony convictions. Ride share companies, both big and small, are not usually required to conform to local taxi regulations so any claims of safety and background checks are self-regulated and therefore not subject to consequences for oversights and/or loopholes.

To date, many municipalities have banned ride share outright for these safety oversights. Other municipalities have chosen to let ride share ventures continue to operate but imposed tighter regulations on them. Some cities have even required ride share services operate in the same manner as, and following the same regulations of, traditional taxi services. By and large, ride share is still a relatively new and highly unregulated industry. It brings up some interesting questions and lively debates about government regulations, free enterprise, and consumer choice. Our concern is-is ride share a good option for Grandma?

Seniors and Technology Based Services

In the areas where ride share services are prevalent and readily available, is it a good idea for Grandma? How accessible are these services for your elderly loved one? If your aging loved one is tech savvy, owns and coherently operates a smart phone, and can willingly and easily learn how to use new apps they are ahead of the curve. Recent Pew Research shows that approximately 40% of seniors 65 and older own a smart phone. However, of this number upwards of 70% need assistance with new devices and features. By the numbers, the older a person is the less likely they are to have and use a smart phone; so, it needs to be taken into account that younger seniors utilize this technology more than their more elder peers.

What if your elderly loved one is not able to utilize a smart phone? This is why many still rely on cabs (which is a very viable, although sometimes costly option). GogoGrandma operates essentially as a switch board for ride share, offering Grandma a person to call and speak with to arrange for a ride share transport. Yet GogoGrandma also has services fees (everybody has bills to pay) so the overall cost can add up and potentially be the same price as calling a cab. It is feasible to have a tech savvy neighbor, friend, or relative arrange a ride share but (as with GogoGrandma) there will be communication gaps which can lead to service gaps. Critical information such as pick up location details, if the rider needs assistance into/out of a building, walking aids, etc. can be easily missed when inserting an intermediary party. If Grandma is tech savvy, there is no barrier to accessing the services; but the question remains, is it a good option?

Use the following check list to explore if Grandma is ready to engage in ride sharing!

Is your elderly loved one?

Personally, for my aging family members, we will not engage in ridesharing. They definitely don't fit the criteria listed above. In addition, ride sharing is currently unregulated in our area; the uncertainty of who is behind the wheel is too disconcerting to me to willingly send off anybody under the age of 17 and over the age of 71 into an unknown vehicle. Perhaps in the near future ride share will be more regulated in our area, and Grandma will become more open minded and accepting of both technology and people. In the interim there are many community options to explore and the time-tested taxi cab when in a crunch!

Leah Felderman BA MA

About the Author

Leah Felderman is a proud alumnus of University of Central Florida (BA) and San Diego State University (MA). She has worn many occupational hats including teaching, hospitality management, government contractor and non-profit organizer. She is an intrepid international traveler having visited over 60 countries before happily settling down into her new life chapter of domesticity as a mom and Coast Guard wife.

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