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Private Transportation Options for Older Residents

Copyright © 2014 AARP. All rights reserved.

Transportation is a basic need of older adults, and should be part of a long-term care plan. Many older adults live in neighborhoods that are not near public transportation, particularly in rural areas. Housing in areas close to public transportation may be unaffordable for older people on fixed incomes.

It's not surprising that so many older people don't want to give up their driving, which often results in the loss of independence. Depending on where you or your parent lives, there may be a few or many alternatives for getting around.

Where public transportation is not available or appropriate, some private services can fill the gap. Following are some of the more popular options:

  • Supplemental transportation programs (STPs): STPs are nontraditional transportation services for older adults who don't drive and others who need assistance. Most STPs provide door-to-door rides, and some arrange for a driver to stay with passengers until they are ready to go home. Some STPs are organized by religious institutions or other community groups.

  • Volunteer programs: Programs organized by faith-based organizations or private agencies often have a network of volunteers who provide transportation for shopping, doctor's appointments, and recreation. They may offer one-way, round-trip, or multistop rides, usually at no cost or on a donation basis.

  • Taxis: Taxicabs are common alternatives to driving. Some cities restrict licensed cabs to picking up passengers on the street; others have some way to call from home or the doctor's office. Some taxi companies have wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Older people may balk at the expense, but you can point out that maintaining a car is much more expensive than an occasional taxi ride.

  • Car services: This option is like a more upscale taxi. The cars are generally more comfortable, although more expensive than taxis. Some are wheelchair-accessible. If you set up an account with a credit card, you or your parent can be billed at the end of the month, which gives you a record of expenses.

    The newest variety of car service, available only in some cities, is a service that is accessed using a phone app. The app identifies your location and sends the nearest driver to pick you up.

  • Hiring a driver: Some people may have the option of hiring their own driver when needed (as in the movie Driving Miss Daisy). It need not be a full-time position. If you hire a driver, make sure the person's driver's license and insurance are valid and up-to-date.

  • Family and friends: Probably most older people get rides from family, friends, and neighbors. One person may offer to take the older person shopping or to religious services. Another may volunteer to go to the doctor and wait until the visit is finished. These are the traditional ways people who don't drive have been helped over the years, and they still work.

    However, you need to be aware of whether these volunteer drivers are themselves of an age or condition in which their driving capacity may be at risk.

  • Transportation provided by independent or assisted-living or other residence- or community-based organizations: These options have become increasingly important and desirable for older individuals and are often used to get to and from doctors’ offices, entertainment sites such as movie theaters, and so on.

To find out what is available in your community, check with the local Area Agency on Aging, the state Aging and Disability Resource Center, senior centers, healthcare providers, and others who may know about options. Giving up the keys should lead to new ways of getting around, not the end of living fully in the community.

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