Where can I find out about alternative transportation options for my elderly mother? She needs to give up driving, but before she does, we need to figure out how she will get around.
Alternative transportation services vary widely by community. The services available to your mom will depend on where she lives.
While most urban areas offer seniors a variety of transportation services, the options may be few for those living in the suburbs, small towns and rural areas. Alternative transportation is an essential link helping seniors who no longer drive get to their doctor's appointments, stores, social activities and more.
Here is a rundown of possible solutions that can help your mom get around, along with some resources to help you locate them. These solutions will vary depending on where she lives.
Family and friends: This is by far the most often used and favorite option among seniors. Make a list of all possible candidates your mom can call on, along with their availability and contact information.
Local transportation programs: These are usually sponsored by nonprofit organizations that serve seniors. These services may charge a nominal fee or accept donations. They often operate with the help of volunteer drivers.
Also check out the Independent Transportation Network, which is a national nonprofit that has 27 affiliate transportation programs in 23 states. With this program, seniors pay membership dues and fees based on mileage. Most programs will let your mom donate her car in return for credits toward future rides.
Demand response services: Often referred to as "dial-a-ride" or "elderly and disabled transportation service," these are typically government-funded programs that provide door-to-door transportation services by appointment and usually charge a small fee or donation on a per ride basis. Many use vans and offer accessible services for riders with special needs.
Taxi or car service: These private services offer flexible scheduling, but they can be expensive. However, they may be cheaper than owning a car. Some taxi or car services may be willing to set up accounts that allow other family members to pay for services and some may offer senior discounts. Be sure to ask.
Another option to look into is a ride-sharing service. Ride-sharing connects people with cars to people who need rides. The larger ride-sharing companies offer services in dozens of cities across the U.S. and must be accessed via an application on a smart phone.
Private program services: Some hospitals, health clinics, senior centers, adult day centers, malls or other businesses may offer transportation for program participants or customers. Additionally, some nonmedical home-care agencies that bill themselves as providing companionship and running errands or doing chores may also provide transportation.
Mass transit: Public transportation, (buses, trains, subways, etc.) where available, can also be an affordable option and may offer seniors reduced rates.
Hire someone: If your mom lives in an area where there are limited options or no transportation services available, another alternative may be to pay someone in the community to drive her. Consider hiring a neighbor, retiree or student that has a flexible schedule and would not mind making a few extra bucks.
Where to Look
To find out what transportation services are available in your mom's community, contact the Rides in Sight national toll-free call center at 855-607-4337 and the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116), which will direct you to her area agency.
You can contact local senior centers, places of worship and retirement communities for other possible options. Additionally, you may want to check with the state department of transportation at www.fhwa.dot.gov/webstate.htm and the American Public Transportation Association at publictransportation.org.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.