TGB Reader Appreciation Day

Uber For Elders

One little piece of news to come out of the White House Conference on Aging on Wednesday was this from Meghan Joyce, East Coast general Manager of Uber:

“Services like Peapod and ride-sharing giant Uber help [old] people 'live life as normal,'” she said during a panel discussion on technology and the future of aging, according to MedCityNews.

According to Emily Study writing at Senior Housing News, Joyce also announced that Uber is

”'...starting a new pilot in a number of cities to partner with local governments and organizations to drive better...mobility and access to older people in those communities,' she said.

“Across the country, Uber will offer free technology tutorials and free rides at select retirement communities and senior centers. The company hopes to further the conversation about the way technology can improve older adults’ day-to-day lives, according to a blog post announcing the new pilot.

“'Twenty-six million Americans depend on someone else as a way to get around, and I think technology helps them to solve that problem effectively,' Joyce said. With Uber, 'older riders are now able to regain their independence.'”

In addition to those free tutorials for elders, Uber may want to hold a few for their drivers. This posting appeared at a discussion board for Uber drivers in April from one calling him- or herself “UberFocus.” I'm quoting at length for the full effect:

”In the last week I've picked up three older people (older than 50). All were terrible.

“The cool thing about Uber passengers is most of them are young. They're in their 20's or 30's and generally know how the game is played. And compared to most other service jobs (retail, serving) tend to be nicer customers in general.

“But all three old people I picked up this week treated me like I was just a cabbie. They all criticized me for using Waze and insisted that they knew how to get to their destination better (they didn't). Two of the ladies were literally pointing in front of my face telling me to go this way or that way at the last second.

“One elderly guy, (seriously he was like 85) argued with me insisting he never selected uber pool. Then he looked upset that I didn't open the door for him. Seriously how entitled are you, I'm not your chaffeur.

“Putting the cabs out of business might be good for ride totals. But now we have to deal with their shitty customers.”

A few other drivers joined UberFocus in elder bashing but a lot of others jumped into with stories of how nice elders they've driven were and then the discussion turned to the fact that the driver, not Uber, has no liability if passengers (of any age) are harmed or injured - an important point I'll get back to below.

I am guessing that Ms. Joyce's announcement at the WHCOA is perhaps an extension of an earlier one last fall about UberASSIST. As the Uber website explains it, UberASSIST is

”...a new platform that will allow those needing an extra hand to request safe and reliable rides at the tap of a button...

“In just a few weeks we’ll be rolling out UberACCESS. With UberACCESS, we are growing our wheelchair accessible vehicle supply, transforming disabled transit and allowing on demand pickups within minutes instead of days.”

Uber is testing these new services in several cities including Gainesville, Florida and Houston, among others.

We have often discussed on this blog the fear we who don't live in big cities like New York and Chicago with good public transportation systems have about how constricted our lives will become if or when we are forced to stop driving.

Since hardly any cities and towns with subpar public transportation have shown an inclination toward improvement, services like those Uber is testing are going to be crucial to elders' ability to get around.

Uber continues to face complaints and backlash from traditional taxi services, activists and local governments (see one of the latest here) along with legal difficulties surrounding lack of benefits for their “independent contractor” drivers and liability issues for riders.

In some of these pilot programs, Uber is partnering with cities or senior living communities – organizations, I am guessing, that would not allow their residents to use a transportation service without appropriate liability insurance. (That's an education guess; I don't know that yet.)

So there are a lot of important issues to be resolved but I'm pretty sure these transportation programs will expand and also will grow beyond Uber to such other similar services as Lyft and to new startups that see the business potential.

However, a big question I have is about how suburbia, not to mention rural areas, can be served. It's one thing to provide urban transportation, quite another where distances between home and destinations can be much farther apart and customers far fewer.

Maybe that there are going to be so damned many of us old folks will make these services financially viable. Imagine how many more than Ms. Joyce's statistic of 26 million elders who now need help in getting around there are soon going to be.

For my own peace of mind and for all elders everywhere who have similar worries, I want Uber-for-Elders-style services moving forward quickly to relieve anxiety for all of us about the day we might not be able to drive anymore.


Perhaps suburban folks may come to be included by a sort of shuttle service, moving people back and forth and at the same time picking up and delivering commodities. That could be a profitable business.

We live in a community of 400 homes about five miles from the nearest services. A shuttle system might be viable here.

I'm still of two minds about Uber and its clones. I personally know three Uber drivers, but I also know taxi drivers.

Missouri has a statewide service

I honestly don't know much about it, but do see the vans parked at hospitals and malls.

There used to be van service through some church groups, volunteer drivers. I have difficulty getting in and out of vans, so doubt if I'd use it. Many people do though.

And lastly, our city bus has a special service.

Thankfully Mr. Bruce still drives and is able to load and unload my wheelchair.

Gee, forgot to say..

I hope a senior car service comes to Springfield, MO

I have read a bit about elders in the same neighborhood who share and help each other out, sometimes using technology. I am now 66 and can still drive fine, but hope when the day comes that I can't drive, there will be more of a sharing/helping situation between elders (or in society in general). Also have read about (and pictured) elders having helpful roommates as they get older. surely what one cannot do, another can.

Public transportation here in Westchester County is sparse at best and Paratransit is a joke, so something like UBER would seem like just the answer. But,having drivers who are not thoroughly trained to deal with the foibles and special needs of the elderly is foolhardy and dangerous. The drivers we have coming here to the ALF who take our residents to doctor's appointments and other venues know what they are doing. Having drivers, in unmarked private vehicles (like UBER) who expect their senior passengers to act like hip 20 year-olds can be unnerving for both driver and passenger. Unless their is something like an "ELDERUBER" with trained drivers , this will never work.

Wouldn't ya think a driver offering a paid service would want to open the door for an elderly person?
Specially if they noticed some creakiness getting in?

I haven't been in a taxi in more than 30 years and haven't a clue about how Uber differs from taxis. I've always lived in sprawling metro suburbs where everyone drives. The distances involved make taxis too expensive anyway except in the most extreme circumstances. Guess I'll be up a creek when I can no longer drive because frankly I can't see hopping alone into a car driven by a stranger and trusting him to drive me clear across down.

I would expect a taxi-driver to be courteous and helpful, to know their way around town (they could use GPS or some such system as well). If I had special knowledge regarding entryways or entrances I could share that info with the driver, but would not expect the driver to rely solely upon directions from me to reach my destination -- especially if I were going somewhere I'd never been before.

I would expect assistance in getting in and out of the vehicle, particularly if I were in a wheelchair or if I had trouble walking to the vehicle.

Just because Uber is supposed to be a cheaper version of a taxi doesn't mean that I wouldn't need help from the driver -- if the company is expecting to target the older customer, they should expect that these courtesies must be extended. Drivers should be trained to do this or I, for one, would never use them again.

Currently I live in a rural area outside a small town where there is NO public transportation. However, we hope to be moving soon to a larger, more urban setting where there are at least taxis, although my husband drives and I can still drive although I rarely do.

I was appalled to read that young man's comments.

For me, Uber and the other pop-up App-run "services" are not regulated enough.

It appears anyone can be a driver with no one who purports to be Uber let alone a local municipality ever setting eyes on that person, issuing any rules regarding insurance, or taking ultimate responsibility for problems.

All you need is a Smartphone to download the app and voila! you can take people for a ride....

It is touted as cheaper, but there are instances of price surges without notification to users.

I haven't seen evidence of your being able to
schedule a specific driver--say, you had a good experience and want to use that driver again.

It appears scheduling is done via technical devices and from who knows where or when the grid will be down, a hacker takes control, and all info stolen and/or lost?

It has been reported that there have been Uber drivers who have surreptitiously scheduled rides
with other Uber-like company drivers (once up to 300 bogus rides scheduled) to make that company
look bad, throwing off schedules by their showing up for rides not truly scheduled.

The self-driven technically programmed cars and the Uber idea, may be a good combo for the future. (But, I am not sold on either as they now are evinced.--and I suspect the prices for either
are out of my league anyway.)

I'm fortunate that Tucson has two services that I use to get around.

First, there is the city service through the bus system. I's a van with a lift for people in wheel chairs or walkers and it will take you anywhere you want to go. The fee is small.

Second, there are volunteer drivers who pick you up at your front door and usually wait in the doctor's office to return you home. The latter is only available to take you to medical appointments or to the grocery store and the distance they will take you is limited. This is a free service.

The only disadvantage to both services is that the rides have to be scheduled in advance. (A minimum of 4 days for the volunteer rides).

The Engineer and I drive separately or together, depending on the destination.

If we're going to the airport, we use a service that picks up people in order of their distance from the airport. It saves money, especially a hefty fee to park at the airport.

One concern I have about volunteering to drive others has to do with liability and related insurance. I'm a careful driver, but driving in Seattle can be challenging these days.

Maybe I am just inappropriate, but I thought the imagery was hilarious where the old ladies were wagging their fingers at the young smart-alec Uber driver (who thinks he is better than a cabbie lol).

I suspect he has more comeuppance awaiting him in the future ha ha.

I'm glad I live in a place where people are still nice enough that I don't have to fear not being able to drive any more. I can find a cabbie I like and get scrip for bargain rides. Neighbors are available when necessary. Too bad we don't have good public transport, though.
Americans in general have hit rock bottom in their regard for others, and elders can be especially poorly treated.

I know little to nothing about Uber. If it looks like a cab driver, etc. It was interesting reading the discussion board for Uber drivers though. Sounds like the anti-old-people guy is a minority. I agree with Hattie, people are mostly nice in my little town and it sure makes a difference. Luckily we have a good bus system unless you actually want to leave town and then it gets tricky. Two good cab companies too.

I am a driver for Uber in Phoenix and I turn 70 this coming April. On our Phoenix Facebook page, I just read a comment that "seniors and the disabled are mainly the only ones who tip." Most of my riders are young but certainly not all. My most obnoxious riders - and I have only had a very few in two years- were of all different ages. Drivers ARE vetted better now than they used to be, through background and DMV checks. Riders rate us at the end of each ride - and we also rate them- so poor or rude drivers are generally weeded out fairly quickly. I love driving for UBER and use it myself when I travel. Try it and see the difference. Pick you up usually in under 5-10 minutes and you can see our car on the map coming toward you. You will have $1 million liability insurance as you ride and most of us are really nice and will ask if you have a preferred route. Many offer water/gum and our cars are spotless. I could tell you a lot more...

"Überfocus" sounds like a jerk, but I'm wondering where or when his riders got their experience with taxis. In cities these days, I can't imagine a cab driver getting out and opening a door (unless maybe they do it for passengers they pick up in upscale neighborhoods). My experience with cabs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, D.C. and, less frequently, here in Sacratomato is that they barely slow down long enough for you to hop out.

Cab drivers are not known for being solicitous to their passengers. But at least they're bonded and drive for well known companies. Like Pied Type, I'd be reluctant to hop into an unmarked car with a driver who was not a pro and who was maybe a bit dubious looking.

It was necessary for me to use Paratransit for about two years to get to eye center appointments and, even though scheduling was awkward and inconvenient, the drivers were terrific and helpful. Living in the burbs has given me a lot of anxiety about what the future might hold in terms of transportation. But I think I need to shut up and appreciate the fact that my old faithful Toyota is holding up and I am still a competent driver at 80.

When we were in Chile, we took collectivos which are taxis,but they stop at certain spots, and can pick up five passengers.

It was cheap and excellent service. If the driver had room for two or one, he would hold up his fingers to let us know.

We loved getting around that way, and we met some very cool Chileans during those rides.

We came back to Montreal thinking that there should be collectivos in every major city. Now we have Uber here, and some of our taxi drivers are unhappy about it.

The biggest issue with seniors I spend time with, is health, second issue is transportation after giving up their cars.

Uber for seniors would be a good thing, if it is set up properly.

I find not driving in a suburb of Toronto in Canada not as "strange" as in America. It's not odd for commuters here to take the bus to the rail station so it's not just poor or old people. You will find "men in suits". The ones who are most helpless are the ones who never took a bus ever so they don't like walking 5 minutes to the stop.

It's not that there is anything "strange" as you say about not driving in American suburbs. It is that many American suburbs have little and even no public transportation. Or that none goes to the destinations people need to travel to.

The ones who are most helpless here are the ones who have no useful public transportation, not that they are as lazy as you seem to think they are.

I live in Toronto too. It's a big, sprawling city. There are parts that are very well served, and others that aren't so much.

We'll probably be selling our car later this year. We'll be able to manage to get to all the essential services we need, we hope, but there are parts of the city we know we won't be going to any more. We've done some "last visits" to favourite restaurants, and we are trying to get in all the major purchases for setting up our new condo's furniture and storage solutions while we can still get to the stores that offer good designs at reasonable prices.

I do worry about what may happen if/when walking becomes harder than it is now. My Dad walked a mile to the grocery store well into his nineties, so there's that.

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