A grandfather takes an Uber ride

Navigating Senior Transportation Options

Getting around as a senior can be a challenge. Some seniors may no longer be able to drive, or have moved to an area with fewer senior transportation options. Regardless of these obstacles, senior transportation is an essential part of elderly well-being, as it allows older folks to retain some independence. 

To help you and your loved one work out senior transportation options, we’ve created this guide. In it, you’ll find a wide range of options, including government-sponsored, free, highly subsidized and private options. 

Let’s get moving on these transportation options!

Importance of senior transportation

Senior transportation is a key component of well-being. That’s because transit is the way seniors can get to their medical appointments, go grocery shopping, shop for home supplies and do other errands. These are essential tasks for seniors to remain independent. 

At the same time, it’s how seniors can visit their friends or family, go to social events and have a weekend outing. The social aspect is perhaps even more important, as seniors feel capable of getting around town and staying connected to their friends. 

Without safe and reliable transportation, these seniors can easily get cut off from the rest of the world. Nowadays, certain delivery services can help seniors do errands like grocery shopping. However, the social part of getting out of the house and socializing with others can’t be replaced. 

Senior isolation doesn’t just put a damper on social lives. Feelings of isolation or loneliness are common in seniors, and can put them at risk for health conditions. According to the CDC, social isolation goes hand in hand with a 50% increased risk of dementia, as well as impacting heart disease, depression and premature death. 

While transportation can’t solve the whole problem of isolation, it’s a key element to making sure seniors can get around for their errands, appointments and social events. 

Average costs of senior transportation

The costs of senior transportation vary greatly. It depends on a senior’s needs. For example, some seniors will feel comfortable taking public transportation, while others will want door-to-door service. Some seniors may not understand how to use smartphones to get tech-based transit services. Or some seniors are disabled and require special equipment to get around. 

The set of requirements for each senior will vary the price of transportation. On the whole, seniors will find that medically necessary or disabled transportation is usually free, public transportation is almost free and private options range from affordable to more expensive.

Senior transportation during COVID

Senior transportation is even more critical during the current COVID pandemic. Depending on the senior’s situation, certain options may not be ideal. For example, public transportation may be a no-go, since it could be crowded with other people. In fact, you may not be able to get around in the same way because of pandemic restrictions. Check with your local government to find out how you may be affected. 

Medicare, Medicaid, SSI & Veyo: Medical transportation only

Most seniors are surprised when they discovered that general transportation isn’t included in Medicare. Let’s look at the transportation details for Medicare, Medicaid and SSI. 

Does Medicare or Medicaid cover senior transportation?

Medicare only covers senior transportation during a medical emergency, i.e. an ambulance. No other transportation expense is covered, not even for non-urgent medical appointments. 

On the other hand, Medicaid covers a larger scope of transportation. Medicaid will pay for medical emergencies, as well as non-urgent medical appointments. This is called NEMTS (Non Emergency Medical Transport Services) and is included for those who are enrolled in Medicaid. It’s also available for seniors who are disabled. All transportation used by NEMTS must be scheduled in advance and only used for healthcare destinations, such as hospitals or doctor offices. 

What is a PCA (Personal Care Attendant)?

PCA is a program within Medicaid that can also be used for transportation needs. PCA, Personal Care Attendant, is designed for those with limited mobility and have challenges with daily living tasks. These may include custodial care such as toileting and dressing, as well as transportation needs. A PCA can accompany a senior in government-sponsored Paratransit services. 

Does SSI or SSDI pay for senior transportation? 

SSI and SSDI can also help pay for transportation costs. However, most of these special programs such as PASS and IRWE are intended for the working disabled. Thus, these programs aren’t likely to apply to senior transportation. 

The good news: if you receive SSI or SSDI, you also qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, so you’ll get medically-related transportation benefits from these programs. 

What is Veyo and is it free? 

Veyo is another great private option, related to health insurance and Medicaid/Medicare. It’s associated with NEMT needs and helps seniors get to their medical appointments. In other words, it’s the “Uber for health.” 

Veyo is free for users who are covered by their private insurance plans or Medicaid/Medicare. It’s an excellent, convenient way to get to appointments. Seniors can use their smartphone to schedule a ride, or they can contact the call center or website. 

Free or highly subsidized senior transportation options

In addition, there are other programs to cover more general transportation. Since Medicaid only covers healthcare-related transportation, seniors will need another way to get around when it’s for errands or social reasons.

1. Supplemental Transportation Programs for Seniors (STPs)

STPs, Supplemental Transportation Programs, are an excellent option for senior transportation. They depend entirely on your location, so you’ll have to check if they’re available in your area. (They’re most common in urban areas.) 

Basically, they’re community-based and independently-funded transportation services for seniors. Volunteers often run them and they survive on grants and donations. STPs are generally high-quality transit and attuned to senior needs because of their senior-specific mission. 

If there’s an STP in your area, check it out! These services are likely to be excellent, responsive and senior-sensitive.  

2. Paratransit services

If you’re a disabled senior, you’ll also be able to take advantage of Paratransit transportation services. The ADA-sponsored Paratransit services are for seniors who are disabled or wheelchair-bound. Depending on your location, they may be private, public or run parallel to the public transit lines. Generally, Paratransit services are provided with wheelchair-adapted vans/microbuses. Cost-wise they’re also quite affordable because by law they can’t exceed twice the public transit rate. 

3. Senior-discounted public transportation

At the same time, seniors who are comfortable with public transit – i.e. those that don’t go door-to-door – may find highly discounted rates for seniors. Public transit is already affordable and with the senior discount, it’s quite cheap. Though public transit will vary according to your location, it’s the ideal option for seniors who are still mobile and want to save money on transportation. 

4. Care facility transportation

If you or your loved one is currently living in a care facility – such as an assisted living unit, nursing home or community facility – transportation may be included. You should contact your care facility to find out what types of transportation they offer, and whether a health aide will accompany seniors on outings. 

If you’re currently looking for a care facility, you should absolutely ask about their transportation programs and what kind of regular service is included. 

5. Other volunteer driver programs

Some communities also offer volunteer driver programs. These are often charity or faith-based volunteer programs that are less organized than an STP, for example. They may offer occasional transportation assistance for seniors.

These services are typically free-of-charge but may not offer the same reliability and professionality as paid or government-sponsored services. 

Private senior transportation options

At the same time, there are a variety of private options for seniors. These are especially apt for seniors who value their convenience and want door-to-door services on demand. Of course, for this reason they’re more expensive than public options. However, some of them hover around the price of a typical taxi, which can be doable. Let’s go over these options in detail!

1. GoGoGrandparent 

Uber and Lyft are ideal services for seniors who want to go door-to-door and know how to use a smartphone to order one. However, many seniors don’t have that level of comfort. That’s where GoGoGrandparent makes ordering an Uber/Lyft easily for older folks. 

It’s a concierge service that allows seniors to order these services by tapping a number on their cell phone’s dial pad. They set up the numbers ahead of time, so that seniors can easily order an Uber/Lyft without needing to enter the app itself. 

This service is a monthly subscription that isn’t too expensive. It’s also great for the family, as text messages can be automatically sent to family members when the grandparent is in transit. 

2. iTNAmerica 

iTNAmerica is a transportation network dedicated to senior mobility. Their services are highly comprehensive and senior-specific. Their programs include ride & shop, health appointments, discounted rides, car trades and more. More than anything, iTN is a network of senior ride companies that are affordable and high-quality. It’s a great option especially for seniors with limited mobility who need extra help during their transportation time. 

3. Home aide/driver

Finally, another option for senior transportation is to hire a home aide/driver. This is by far the most expensive option available, as home aides often charge around $20/hour for their services. However, if you or your loved one have a lot of transportation needs, as well as home tasks, it could be a worthwhile investment. 

Conclusion

Ultimately, senior transportation is an essential part of aging in place. It’s also important for getting to medical appointments and expanding the horizons of seniors who want to socially connect with others. 

Thankfully, you have plenty of senior transportation options to choose from. Depending on a senior’s needs, there are government-sponsored, free, highly subsidized and private options. Whatever your situation, one of these programs is sure to be a good fit for you or your loved one.

Looking for more information on senior life? Check out some great senior resources at My Caring Plan


Sources:

  1. Transportation Guide, Senior Living, www.seniorliving.org

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