Overcoming Transportation Challenges for Seniors

Overcoming Transportation Challenges for Seniors

As seniors get older, transportation can sometimes become an issue. There are many reasons for this.

In some cases, a person might reach a point of being unsure behind the wheel and want to give up the keys to ensure the safety of themselves and others. That means that they will need to find alternative forms of transportation to get where they need to go.

In other cases, someone might be prevented from driving by a medical condition. For instance, someone who develops a seizure disorder might not be able to continue driving.

And in other cases, mobility becomes a problem. Someone might develop weakness in their arms that prevents them from using the steering wheel properly. They might have trouble getting in and out of a vehicle, even as a passenger, and that might necessitate a new kind of vehicle or other method of transport. Someone might be in a wheelchair and become unable to use a typical automobile.

Still other seniors might find themselves faced with one of these issues but live in a rural area that doesn’t offer much in the way of transportation options. They not only have to find alternative transportation, but their options may be limited.

According to Transportation for America, 25% of those who are over the age of 65 live in rural areas.1 And the U.S. Census Bureau reports that almost 15% of disabled individuals live in rural areas, mostly without public transportation.2 That’s two of the most vulnerable populations in the United States with more difficult access to doctors, clinics, hospitals, and more.

For those who live in rural areas, a vehicle is the way to go when it comes to transportation for seniors. That might include driving themselves or relying on a caregiver to take them to where they need to go. For those who have mobility challenges, that vehicle can be modified to allow them to drive it or comfortably ride in it, depending upon their situation.

The good news is that there are many ways to solve transportation issues. It might take thinking outside the box, but it’s possible! Let’s explore the options to overcome transportation challenges for seniors and the elderly.

Public Transportation

This is the gold standard for those who live in urban areas. In densely packed cities, it might be the only transportation that someone has. For instance, many individuals who live in New York City don’t bother to own a vehicle because public transport is so incredibly efficient and affordable. It provides independence even for those who have some mobility issues, thanks to special seats on trains, subways, and buses.

Public transportation like this works very well for those who want set schedules, as you can usually count on the trains or buses to arrive on time and always run the same routes. However, it might not work well for those who need a more flexible schedule or for those who must walk a good distance to get to the nearest bus stop or train station.

Always be sure to have an on-the-go emergency button alarm with you. Remember that medical alert technology can help you with much more than falls – as a personal emergency response system (PERS), it can also assist you in any emergency, such as feeling unsafe while you are waiting for public transportation to arrive. Press the button and help will be on the line within moments. At Alert1, the 24/7 monitoring center stays on the line with members until help arrives.

Para-transit Services

These services are designed specifically for those with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a city or town that provides public transportation must also provide para-transit services. This service must be available within three-quarters of a mile of a bus route or train station. They must have exact days and times to run and not cost more than twice the route rate.3

Most of the time, the para-transit vehicles are accessible vans or buses equipped with wheelchair lifts, ramps, and specialized seating. The transport also offers curb-to-curb services; that’s different from door-to-door services.

While door-to-door services will actually help you in and out of the vehicle and right to wherever you need to go, curb-to-curb services mean that a senior will need a caregiver or aide to help them into and out of the vehicle; or they must be able to get into the vehicle themselves, such as by maneuvering their wheelchair onto the lift.

These services are in very high demand in some areas; you might have to schedule an appointment to make sure you get a seat.

Ride Share Services

Uber and Lyft are the two behemoth companies that run ride sharing services all across the nation. Simply use a smartphone to call for a vehicle on-demand and it will come right to your door. While these ride share services are quite common in urban areas, they aren’t as common in small towns – double-check with the app or on the website to make sure there is service in your area at a reasonable price.

While some ride share services offer vehicles that can handle the needs of those with disabilities, those opportunities are not yet widespread. Look specifically for vehicles that are listed on the app as being able to handle those who need assistance.

On the upside, there is no set schedule for any ride shares, so you can get service whenever you need it. The downside is that you might have a different driver every time, which means the level of service and friendliness can vary widely.

Private Door-to-Door Services

These services are much like Lyft, Uber, and other ride share companies. The only difference is that these services cater to seniors and those with disabilities. These private services usually help a person from their home to the vehicle, provide assistance with getting into and out of the vehicle, and walk them through the door at their destination.

This attention also includes carrying bags and other items, helping riders manage with any purchases made, and loading and unloading wheelchairs or scooters. Some of the vehicles are equipped to handle motorized wheelchairs or those who have intense medical needs as well, but these are somewhat rare.

These private services offer the same on-demand or same-day scheduling as you might expect from ride share companies, but keep in mind that they aren’t as common, so you might need to schedule well in advance. There is also a higher fee for these services than you might pay for an Uber or Lyft.


Taxi services are often available in urban areas and in many rural ones – and if you are traveling a long distance, such as from an airport to your home in the country, a taxi can get you there. However, expect to pay more for taxi services than you do for ride share services.

As a general rule, most taxis don’t provide assistance with wheelchairs and the like, but friendly drivers might go out of their way to help as much as they can. Depending upon where you live, handicapped-accessible taxis might be available, but you usually have to schedule them in advance.

Remember, when you are taking a taxi, ride share service, or any other transportation where it’s just you and the driver, it’s vitally important to stay safe. Having personal safety protection with a medical alert pendant or wristband is a great idea. Press the panic button alarm and get help fast, any time of the day or night.

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT)

This popular program provides free or low-cost transportation for the elderly. It gets seniors to doctor and dentist appointments, therapy sessions, medical testing, health-related appointments, and even exercise programs. These are part of the Medicaid program.

When you take advantage of this option, you can expect to be transported to and from your appointment in an appropriate form of transportation and have all your travel-related expenses covered; for example, you will not be required to pay tolls if the route requires a toll.

However, this is an incredibly popular program and as such, space might be very limited. Scheduling far in advance is a great idea. But even so, be prepared for a late pickup if the service is very busy on a particular day.

Volunteer Drivers

These drivers usually offer their services through local non-profit agencies or churches, especially those that cater to seniors or the disabled. These volunteers usually use their own vehicles. It works best for those who have typical mobility or some minor mobility issues, as the volunteers will usually be using passenger vehicles that can’t handle large or motorized wheelchairs.

On the positive side, the volunteer drive is often free of charge, and the driver might be able to help you with errands, such as assisting you with carrying groceries into your home after shopping. In addition, volunteer drivers are often quite friendly and can provide an excellent social outlet.

Senior Community Vans

Senior living communities often have robust transportation systems that take their residents out, either as individuals or in groups, to shopping centers, grocery stores, doctor appointments, and much more.

There might also be transportation available through a senior center in your area, but keep in mind that most of the time, that transportation is for group events, not for one-on-one needs. And best of all, this transportation is usually free to anyone who signs up for it.

No matter the transportation you choose to take, let an alert system for elderly adults be your constant companion. An on-the-go model from Alert1 will ensure that help is right at your fingertips no matter where you roam. Press the panic button for any emergency and you will soon hear a friendly voice from the monitoring center, ready to assess the situation and provide whatever help you need either in home or on the go.