Uber and Lyft for Seniors: Is It a Good Idea?

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As seniors age and their mobility necessarily decreases, transportation can become a barrier to a life well-lived. This is prompting many seniors to use Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services that take advantage of modern technology to provide a quick ride for virtually anyone who needs one.

However, many seniors are apprehensive about using such apps. Why?

In this article, we are teaming up with the aging resources professionals at Aging Resources of Douglas County to offer some perspective on this important topic.

Seniors and The New Mobile Paradigm

It’s often thought that as we age, we distance ourselves from technology. However, for the seniors of today, this doesn’t appear to be the case. In fact, Pew Research data suggest that more than half of seniors over age 65 own a smartphone. Clearly, whether it’s an iPhone or an Android-based device, smartphones have pervaded the daily lives of our seniors.

Many older Americans are comfortable with the use of such devices, but are seniors using their smartphones as much as the rest of us, when it comes to hailing Uber or Lyft for a ride somewhere? The statistics might surprise you.

Recently, AARP conducted a survey that revealed something interesting: only 29% of adults over the age of 50 had used Uber or Lyft in the prior year. So, what’s stopping seniors from taking more advantage of ‘Networked Transportation’, so that they can manage their lives better? And, is it necessarily a good idea to encourage seniors to use these services, considering the variety of risk factors that may be involved?

Safety First

We clearly know that one of the most important features of any mobile service for seniors is safety. As we age, many of us may need medical assistance in order to conduct basic tasks, including walking, standing, and sitting. Not every Uber or Lyft driver may be comfortable in assisting their customers in this way, and seniors know this.

What’s more, many seniors affected by neurological diseases like Alzheimers or dementia could be taken advantage of by dubious rideshare drivers—or should this even be considered a concern?

Both Uber and Lyft are committed to providing a safe, secure, and reliable transportation solution for the users of their apps. Both companies conduct fairly thorough background checks on their drivers, and both Uber and Lyft have strict policies against hiring drivers with criminal records that include violent crimes.

Lyft specifically bars drivers that have any criminal history including any offense that resulted in placement on the National Sex Offender Registry. While these strict driver requirements may mean that convicted felons who committed nonviolent crimes can’t drive for Uber or Lyft, it also helps to give riders more peace of mind. For many seniors, this is especially important.

The Rating System

Another feature of both Uber and Lyft that gives riders confidence in their safety and security is the rating system. When an Uber or Lyft driver provides less-than-stellar service, if they are rude, abusive, or if they are using drugs or alcohol while on the job, the peer-powered review and rating system will automatically weed them out.

Here’s how it works:

  • A new driver signs up to drive for Uber or Lyft. He or she is issued a provisional, neutral rating for their first ride.
  • Passengers rate the driver on a 1-to-5 scale, with one being poor and five being exceptional.
  • The driver maintains a rolling average rating, which fluctuates as individual ride ratings are calculated.
  • If the driver’s rating ever drops below a set threshold, they are suspended from driving, put onto an improvement plan, or removed from the system altogether.

In many cases, a single report of harassment or physical abuse will result in the immediate and permanent termination of the driver.

Helping Seniors Help Themselves

Many seniors are more concerned with how to use Uber or Lyft more than they are concerned with its safety. At least one company, GoGoGrandparent, is helping to address this by offering seniors an Uber or Lyft-assisted service that completely removes the need for a smartphone. By bringing the power of rideshare platforms to seniors and removing the technological complexity, livelihoods are being improved every day.

To answer the question, “Is Uber or Lyft a good idea for seniors?”, many factors should be considered. Safety, accessibility, and security are among them. With enough patience and a little instruction, seniors throughout the country stand to benefit greatly from these rideshare platforms. To access more aging-related resources, visit Aging Resources of Douglas County.