As a senior who doesn’t drive, I recently had a frustrating experience that resulted in a life-transforming discovery.
Normally, I get around just fine by public transportation since most of my destinations are on a convenient bus line. This time, however, I had an appointment with a new doctor who wasn’t near a bus stop. Some seniors, when faced with this kind of problem, call a friend or relative to get a ride, but if no one is available, they must call a taxi, which was my situation that day.
I could bore you with all the details, but let’s just say that my taxi ride was overpriced and the service was unsatisfactory. To add insult to injury, I had to repeat the painful process to get home from the appointment.
There had to be a better way!
Shortly after this experience, I became aware that Uber (a ride service alternative to taxis) was available in my city. I downloaded the Uber app on my smartphone and signed up for an account.
On the day of my follow-up appointment, I entered into the Uber app my address and destination, and when the estimated fare appeared, I confirmed it by touching the screen. A driver was close by and arrived minutes later. Since I had already stored my credit card information in the app, once I reached my destination I didn’t need to fumble for cash.
And, the best part of all? The fare was half what I had paid for a taxi, and Uber doesn’t require a tip. I was sold!
I’ve made use of the Uber app several times since then, and have been very satisfied with the price, service, and convenience. I can’t overstate the sense of empowerment and independence that comes from knowing I can come and go as I please from now on.
Now for the sad part of the story.
While I was personally rejoicing over my newfound freedom, I realized that many seniors couldn’t take advantage of Uber because they don’t use a computer or smartphone. Sadly, tech-timid seniors miss out on so many things that make life simpler and more convenient.
Fortunately, there is hope.
As far back as July 2015, Uber had an article on their website describing more options for senior mobility. They had created a pilot program for community-based senior outreach that included free tutorials about technology, and free rides for select retirement communities and senior centers. Since then, Uber has continued to expand outreach efforts around the country.
Uber competitors such as Lyft have also sprung up. Uber and Lyft’s original business plans required riders to contact them through a smartphone app. Then, in January 2016, Lyft announced a partnership with National MedTrans Network in NYC, and unveiled a web application called Concierge. With Concierge, a third party can contact Lyft online and arrange transportation for someone who doesn't have a smartphone. This service is making it easier for seniors to get to and from medical appointments.
Seniors with a smartphone who want to learn the Lyft app can take an online Lyft tutorial from Techboomers. Then they can use Lyft wherever it operates.
Having personally experienced the sense of relief and empowerment that came with using Uber, I’m eager to see these kinds of services expand around the country. Still, their availability will be irrelevant if seniors aren’t willing or able to use them.
If you’re a senior reading this, you’ve probably already started exploring and using tech devices. If so, I hope you’ll keep learning and mentor your tech-timid friends.
I’m so passionate about helping seniors discover the joys of technology that I’ve written a book: Become a Tech-Active Senior: Defeat Your Fear, Get Connected, Expand Your World. This book helps seniors work through mental and emotional barriers to embracing a tech-rich life, and gives basic information about devices that meet their needs and interests. I believe you’ll find it useful, and the paperback version makes a great gift for your tech-timid friend or family member.