No senior looks forward to the day they have to give up their driver's license. After all, driving is a privilege they've enjoyed all their lives, and for many it's a symbol of their ability to be independent.
Still, at least one out of five Americans age 65 and older no longer drives, according to a survey by AARP. And as seniors age, they're more likely to hand in their keys, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes against their will. In many states, older drivers must pass vision or road tests before they're permitted to renew a license; and in Washington, DC, drivers age 70 and older need a physician's approval before they can get behind the wheel. The bottom line: Most older adults do eventually stop driving—it's typically only a matter of when.
The good news is, seniors who lose the ability to drive do have other options for getting around town. Here's an overview of some of the best.
App-Enabled Ride Services
If the senior in your life happens to own a smartphone, that may be all they need to find a ride at any time. Thanks to companies like Uber and Lyft, which use app-based programs to match riders with drivers, “catching a cab" is now easier than ever. All you have to do is press a button on your phone and a driver will pick you up at your door. Uber is even partnering with a number of cities nationwide to offer a special version of its service at certain senior-living communities. Residents in these facilities get discounted rates on Uber rides and receive free training on how to use the Uber app.
Other lesser-known app-based services are similarly convenient and affordable. In New York and Chicago, for example, many older adults rely on a ride-share service called Via that offers professionally chauffeured vehicles and charges $5 per trip. Via's only catch: You have to be willing to share space with others who are headed in the same direction.
Other Free and Low-Cost Transportation Options
Uber's new service, which is still in its pilot phase, is just one example of a low-cost transportation option tailored specifically for seniors. Similar companies (with much longer histories) offer their services at senior centers nationwide, and don't rely on smartphones to connect riders with drivers.
In some cases these companies have dedicated cars or vans for specific senior centers, and only serve individuals who live in those facilities. Elsewhere seniors can use free ride services that rely on volunteer drivers, or they can get around like anyone else who doesn't own a car: by either calling a cab or using public transportation. In many cases, city buses and trains offer free or reduced fares to older adults. For example, River Cities Public Transit in Pierre, South Dakota, offers seniors steeply discounted 10- or 20-punch tickets they can use for rides at any time. The River Cities service (and others like it) also coordinates transportation for area nursing homes and assisted-living centers, and provides rides to the local hospital and several local health clinics for seniors who need them.
Another option for seniors in many cities is to join an organization like the Independent Transportation Network (ITN). Membership in a group like ITN allows seniors to call for a ride without having to worry about paying or tipping their driver. ITN even offers ride credits to seniors who trade in their vehicles, and its drivers provide physical assistance to those who need it.
Finally, for those seniors who like to barter goods and services, some communities offer“time-bank" volunteer programs where drivers get credit for giving rides to people in exchange for a ride when they need one themselves. For non-driving older adults, programs like these also exchange rides for whatever work the senior can provide, whether it's baking cookies for a local fundraiser or knitting a hat for whoever does the driving.
The next time you hear a senior lament the imminent loss of their driver's license? Tell them you understand why they might be concerned, but also let them know there are options ahead.
How have you dealt with life after driving? Tell us in the comments.