Ride sharing has changed how Americans get around. Now services like Uber and Lyft are trying to make the ride smoother for older customers.

Common wisdom might suggest that ride sharing is for younger city-dwellers who rely on the service for late-night socializing. And indeed, a Pew Research Center study from 2018 found that 51% of Americans ages 18 to 29 used ride-sharing apps compared to just 24% of citizens over 50. But that 24% is substantially more than the 7% of Americans over 50 who used ride sharing in 2015.  

24% of Americans over the age of 50 used ride-sharing in 2018 versus just 7% in 2015.

AARP released its own survey in 2018 that showed similar numbers: 29% of Americans over 50 reported using ride sharing apps, while 68% answered that they are not likely to use it in the next year, with security and safety being two main concerns. 

There are several barriers for older riders, perhaps like your aging parents, who remain hesitant to use a ride-sharing service. The technology can be intimidating, the cost can be prohibitive, and passengers may need additional help during pickup or drop off.  

But the concept — a more convenient and customized transport option — is perfectly suited to older citizens to go shopping, visit friends and make it to various medical appointments.

Studies have shown that better access to transportation can improve the health of older citizens and that it’s often the most vulnerable who have the most difficult time maintaining access to their health services.

A maturing market

As ride sharing has grown, it has also evolved to attract different demographics. For example, older riders are now able to order a car that fits their needs along with a driver accustomed to helping passengers with specific health or mobility issues.  

Uber and Lyft have been the two most popular ride-sharing apps, and have expanded their services to reach an older — and in some cases less mobile — generation. 

Lyft offers options for riders in wheelchairs, and Uber has UberAssist, designed to provide additional ride support for older passengers and those with disabilities. 

These services aim to not only equip vehicles for disabilities better, but to train drivers and make sure they are experienced in meeting the needs of these passengers.  

Kate Cory, communications manager at Lyft, outlined for Considerable some of the steps Lyft has taken in recent years to specifically link seniors with health care services.  

Lyft, along with USC Keck School of Medicine, United Healthcare and AARP, conducted a three-month study based in Los Angeles that offered unlimited Lyft ride credits to older patients with chronic disease.

The results reflected the importance of access to transportation for seniors, not just for maintaining better physical health but in avoiding social isolation and boosting the overall quality of life.  

Uber, Lyft and Medicare

Cory pointed to numerous partnerships Lyft has established with senior living providers around the country, including Brookdale Senior Living, Queens Community House & Forrest Hills Stadium, Sequoia Village and Sunshine Retirement Living to name several.  

“We’re also focused on Medicare…we plan to partner with the majority of Medicare Advantage plans by 2020.”
Kate Cory
Communications Manager, Lyft

“We’re also focused on Medicare…we plan to partner with the majority of Medicare Advantage plans by 2020,” Cory said.  

“Earlier this year, we announced plans to expand our partnership with BCBSI (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois) to reach certain BCBS MA plans, providing rides to-and-from medical appointments, the pharmacy and fitness centers.

“We also have extended our platform to members of select Humana MA plans through LogistiCare.”

Uber has established similar partnerships, including a Freedom in Motion pilot program in Florida and RideWith24, the transportation arm of 24Hr HomeCare, the in-home care provider company based in California, Texas, and Arizona. 

Safety first

Both Uber and Lyft offer guidance for riders of all ages when it comes to staying safe, including making sure your driver confirms your name. Check to see that you’re getting into the same car (model and license plate number) that’s listed in the app.

Both services do background checks on potential drivers. For Lyft, that means tracing your Social Security number, a county court records search, a federal criminal search, and a 50-state sex offender registry search. Uber partners with a company called Checkr to conduct the screenings. Checkr is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.

Other services

There are also services such as GoGoGrandparent and Envoy America, which help arrange transportation services for a fee, and government services like Dial-A-Ride and Senior Cab that aim to do the same.  

So while technology will likely still remain an obstacle for many, the trend points to ride-sharing becoming not only more common for older passengers but better subsidized and accessible.