Older adults may find traveling difficult due to mobility issues. If you are wondering how can elderly move about their city, read on to know more.
The ability to travel in your neighborhood and within your city is a basic freedom that we probably never think about. But as people grow older, they suffer from health conditions and mobility issues that can curtail this simple freedom.
Statistics are eye-opening: two out of five people in the age group of 65-79 face at least some mobility issue, whereas four out of five people above the age of 80 have a problem in doing their daily tasks due to such issues.
Problems with mobility make it challenging for older adults to get to a grocery store, social gatherings, doctor’s consultation or go visit friends and family across their town or city.
As people age, there is a change in their health conditions. Their muscles weaken, joints get stiff, which affects their ability to drive. It makes it hard for them to turn their head or steer quickly.
For the elderly who can not drive, there are many transportation options available to move around the city. However, it may be hard for them to understand and utilize those services.
For this, a caregiver or a family member who is looking to help an elderly person move needs to do some research on transport services available in their area and make the elderly familiar with the process.
The various aspects to look at before registering for services, are modes of transport, the eligibility of the elderly person, access, and the purpose of the trip.
In this article, let us look at ways to transport the elderly in which we will cover:
- Loss of mobility and its effect on seniors.
- How to find transport options for seniors
- Costs and payment assistance
- Does Medicare Cover The Cost Of Transport Service For Seniors & Eligibility Criteria
- Ways to transport the elderly, and How one can find them
- When Should You Choose a Transport Service For Seniors?
- Tips to safely transport the elderly.
Loss of Mobility and Its Effect on Seniors
As people grow old, they worry about not being able to move on their own. They have a fear of not being able to do their favorite activities or visiting any place they want to, or even do their routine work. Mobility is a critical part of living an independent life. It is one of the crucial factors determining a person’s quality of life.
As we age, our body goes through many changes, and the muscles weaken over time. People suffer from health conditions that include balance and mobility problems. It leads to a risk of falls and makes it more difficult for older people to go out, and it gets challenging for them to go to social places or visit relatives and friends.
If a person has less severe mobility issues like minor arthritis, it may just prevent them from walking sometimes. But if it is severe, then they might be forced to sit at home all the time.
Thus limited mobility makes them lose touch with their friends and relatives, which can cause loneliness and depression. Loss of mobility affects a person’s mental health, physical health and social well-being.
There is a need to look for transport options for the elderly who cannot drive independently. This will give them a good quality of life and help them enjoy their golden years in a better way.
When Should You Choose a Transport Service For Seniors?
When older adults cannot move around freely and have some mobility issues, then choosing a transport service is clear. Many older people have weak eyesight as they grow old, due to which they are unable to drive on their own.
It will be harder for them to choose transport service as they will lose their freedom. In the end, it depends on the physical well-being of an older adult.
How To Find Transport Option For Seniors?
Seniors may find it difficult to find transportation options on their own. But with the advancement of technology, it has become easy to get older adults to any place they want to go.
Public transport options like bus or metro may not be ideal for seniors with mobility issues or health conditions. There are many other options for them to choose from, including paratransit, ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft, or private transportation.
But before choosing the transport option, it is necessary to look at the cost and eligibility criteria.
Cost and Payment Assistance
There will be an increase in the cost of transport services for seniors who cannot drive on their own. The cost will depend on the type of service a person chooses.
People who choose special transport services for disabled or older adults, such as paratransit, will have to pay almost twice the public transportation services. For example, if the bus fare for city transport is $2, the paratransit will cost $4 per ride.
If you choose transport service through a volunteer driver program, it will cost $5 to $10 per ride, while others may provide rides free of cost. Private transport services will always cost more than other transport services, and it may cost around $40 for one trip.
Does Medicare Cover The Cost Of Transport Service For Seniors?
This is the most common question people get confused about. But unfortunately, Medicare does not pay for transport services for older people. However, if there is some hospital emergency, Medicare pays for medical transport services like an ambulance.
But suppose your loved ones have a doctor’s appointment for a consultation. In that case, Medicare will not cover such non-emergency transportation costs.
On the other hand, Medicaid offers various transportation services for the disabled or elderly. Medicaid has different types of programs to choose from, and its benefits differ from state to state.
Some programs fund transport services for medical appointment purposes as well. Medicaid programs also provide the elderly with care assistance if required for any paratransit services.
There are different eligibility criteria for different transportation services that we will discuss below. It is possible that one person has severe mobility issues while others have minor ones. Therefore, the eligibility criteria for the elderly are based on the level of disability or mobility issue.
To be more precise, private transport services may not be able to assist people who are wheelchair users. Also, sometimes transport services may require a formal prescription letter for the disabled person who needs transport service.
The need and purpose of traveling is another factor that is considered if anyone requires assistance. Some transport programs provide services for non-medical emergency needs as well, but may not offer services for grocery shopping or social visits.
Eligibility criteria usually do not include the age of a person. Except for some private transport services, almost all the services require the person who needs transport service to pre-register for the ride.
Ways To Transport The Elderly
If you cannot help your loved ones with transport services, you can find different transport options available in your area.
Metropolitan cities have many transport services available, from public buses, trolley lines to various other commercial services. In small cities, you may need to pre-book any transport service you require through volunteer programs.
Let us look at some of these ways below, and how much each of them will cost you.
Family Member Can Help Transport Elderly
Most people think of driving the elderly on their own. If they are free from work, they will find it the best option. Your aging loved one will be more comfortable traveling with you. If you are going to take your loved one yourself, it will only cost you whatever it takes for the gas in your car.
But sometimes, due to work schedules, it may not be possible to drive the elderly when they want to. So, in this case, you can choose other alternative ways to transport the elderly.
Public Transport Services: Low Budget
Choosing public transport is one of the best options for seniors with good health and well-being who do not drive independently. It is the cheapest mode of transportation one can avail. Older adults can get some independence to travel on their own.
Public transport services include bus and rail services with fixed routes and stops. Metropolitan cities will have different buses for different routes and take people to any location.
Though when choosing a public transport service, older adults must be able to walk to and from the bus and be able to look at the stairs. They need to follow the strict schedules of the buses and wait near the stop for the bus to arrive. Sometimes, choosing public transport is not an apt option for older adults with mobility issues or other health conditions.
Older adults who use any mobility aids for wheelchairs can still use public transport services. By law, every public bus needs a wheelchair lift on it, and every train needs wheelchair access. However, it is better to inquire about the safety options for the elderly and ensure that the stations have proper lights and elevators for people with mobility issues.
Sometimes some public transport agencies conduct training programs for the elderly and help them learn about the safety rules and other features they offer.
Paratransit: Low Budget
The public transport system puts in a lot of effort to provide the best services to everyone. But some transport services are still outdated and provide poor service to the older people who require assistance. In such cases, paratransit services are a great option.
The Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) has mandated that any city that offers public transport services needs to assist people with any disability, covering almost all the places. This means that any city that offers public transport services to the community must provide complimentary transport services to people with disabilities. These are called paratransit services, and they usually have wheelchair-assisted vans rather than buses.
However, drivers do not offer to pick and drop services to their houses, but they offer services from particular stops. So the rider needs to reach the pick-up location on their own and must be able to navigate their way back home.
Or a caregiver or someone needs to assist elderly people with disabilities to drop them off at the bus stop. Caregivers can also ride with the elderly for free. To use the paratransit service, the riders need to meet the eligibility as per the ADA.
As nowadays, paratransit services are on-demand. Riders need patience and are flexible with timings.
- They should pre-book the ride within 24 hours.
- It may take more time to reach the destination than the regular public transport schedule. For example, if it takes 40 minutes to reach a particular destination, paratransit service may take 60 minutes.
- The wait time is for a maximum of 30-minutes for older adults to reach the pick-up location. This means 5-minutes before the scheduled time and 15-minutes after the scheduled time.
The cost of paratransit service may be more than the public transport. For example, if the public transport charges $4 to travel locally, paratransit service may charge $8 for the same.
The eligibility criteria for using the paratransit service may be more difficult in some cities than in others. Some systems may allow the riders to use the service as they reach a certain age. At the same time, some may have some strict eligibility criteria. There will be a lot of paperwork required to be completed to use the service.
Overall choosing a paratransit service is a good option for older adults who cannot drive independently.
Volunteer Programs: Low Budget
Many non-profit organizations, community groups, and churches run various volunteer programs. Volunteers help older adults or people with disabilities and drive them to the doctor for any medical appointments. They provide door-to-door transportation to the elderly. However, all the cities may not be conducting such programs.
Usually, volunteers drive their own cars and may not be able to transport wheelchair vans. Older adults can ride with volunteers without any risk and cost involved.
However, the rider must pre-book their ride with volunteers in advance, usually a day or two. The only thing you need to look at is that volunteer time may be limited, so you need to schedule a ride accordingly. You may not always have a ride whenever you want to.
To know about such volunteer-driven programs, you can talk with your community groups and churches nearby and ask if they provide any transport services. If you have any mobility issues, do specify them in front. The cost of these programs is either free or has minimal charges.
Voucher Programs: Low Budget
Some local and state governments implement certain transport voucher programs. It offers trip allowances, or some dollar amounts to the participants. They can use the vouchers or amount for any trip or medical appointments to the doctor or visit to their relatives.
The vouchers may be given to the participants based on their mental and physical well-being. Every city will have different voucher programs, and not every place needs to have such programs. You can check with your local community if any such programs are conducted in your area.
Medical Transportation: Low Budget
Some medical centers provide transport services for patients who have mobility issues or can’t go to the hospital independently. Many medical facilities or physicians may not be able to afford to run such services.
But if your physician works in a large hospital with a large group of people, they may provide you transport service either free of cost or charge a minimal amount.
If they do not provide any transport service, business organizations often have medical or paratransit services. The main benefit of having medical transport is that it has accessibility to wheelchairs, drivers, and assistants trained to handle any minor issue with the rider.
iTNAmerica: Medium Budget
The Independent Transportation Network America is a network that provides door-to-door transportation services to senior citizens above 60 years of age. It also offers services to people who are visually impaired. ITN charges an annual fee of around $50 to $60 for a single person.
People can choose a family plan as well. There are no limitations to the number of rides older adults may want to have. The drivers provide assistance to the elderly with their luggage and help them get in and out of the car.
One great thing about opting for this service is that the riders don’t need to pay the driver any amount. The amount automatically gets deducted from the personal account of the rider. The cost that ITN charges is half that of any private taxi service. If riders choose a sharing option, it costs much less. The price may vary from state to state.
Rides In Sight
It is not a transport service but a database system that helps navigate the transport options available in your area. iTNAmerica created this to help people find the transportation options available for seniors and disabled people.
It considers the needs of the people, such as wheelchair assistance, traveling distance, age of the person, and transport referrals, if any. People can access this database free of cost.
Taxi Services: High Budget
Taxi services are a great option for seniors who need to commute around the city. One good thing about these services is you don’t have to go to the pick-up point and do not have scheduled times as other services do.
You can be picked up from your home at your timing and convenience. You also get one-on-one service and can conveniently carry your walking aid or cane. The only disadvantage of choosing a taxi service is its way too expensive than mass transit services.
This option is appropriate for older people who need to travel occasionally and need minimum assistance. People living in rural areas with no public transport can choose a taxi service.
Ride Hailing Services
Seniors can choose ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft. Many people know about these ride-sharing apps. However, you need to have a smartphone to access the app, and the drivers may not be able to meet the specific needs of the people. So if your loved ones have small mobility issues and like meeting people, then this is the best option to go for.
Uber and Lyft check the driver’s backgrounds before hiring them. Still, they may not be well geared to serve older people with disability or mobility issues. So if your loved ones are not used to such rides, then it is better that you ride along with the elderly first time.
If you are not worried about the cost, choosing these ride-hailing services is the best option for non-emergency transportation.
Non-emergency Medical Transport (NEMT)
Medicaid covers the cost of NEMT for any medical appointments, and private insurance companies may also cover this cost. It would help if you talked with your insurance provider to know the insurance benefit.
The type of transport, eligibility criteria, and destination depend from state to state. Most specialty brokers or community groups provide wheelchair vans or taxi services. But nowadays, the insurance providers or Medicaid programs cover ride-sharing taxi services.
Some companies partner with health insurance companies to provide non-medical transport services. One such company is Veyo. Seniors who have any medical appointment with a doctor or require a special vehicle for accommodation like a wheelchair or any mobility aid can choose this option.
How Can One Find Transport Options Available?
All the information about transportation options may not be available from a single source. But nowadays, public transit services are coming with strategies that are helping to fill the gap.
Some local communities have developed call centers that are just one click away. Also, some mobility management programs are helping people find the transport service available in their locality. They can access and pre-book the service in advance online or through the phone.
Caregiver support programs or volunteer programs can help people find any service they want to avail.
One of the main reasons people go for an eldercare locator is to avail transport service. The federal government operates this website and helps you find the nearest agency to know more about the services for older adults.
In many local communities, the mobility managers help coordinate with the transport programs and help people with disability or mobility issues find the best transport service in their area as per their convenience.
You can connect with the mobility managers through your local transport agency or area agency.
Older adults can directly call 211 to get information from any service they want to avail themselves in their locality. The 211 service is available in around 50 states in the US.
Senior Care Services
If you can spend more money, it is best to hire a caregiver. Hiring a home caregiver is one of the best ways to ensure your aging loved ones are protected at home when you are at work. Nowadays, caregivers have their vehicles.
This helps them offer any transport service to the elderly when needed and charge some amount. This way, older people will have someone around to take care of them and even help them go out to a religious place or shopping.
Tips To Safely Transport Elderly
With the increase in the number of older people with disabilities, there is a need for safe medical transportation. Unfortunately, many people end up paying huge amounts when transporting the elderly for medical intervention.
It is heartbreaking to know when older people suffer from any brain injury, heart failure, or severe injury don’t get proper treatment in time. It is very important to have good ambulance services that help cater to all the medical transportation facilities.
Let us look at some tips to transport the elderly safely:
- Older adults should talk with their physician before making any long-distance travel plans and obtain all the medical needs. This will help them know if there is any complication to their health while traveling and help mitigate the problem.
- As people grow old, they suffer from heart or respiratory problems. Due to altitude variation, they may find it difficult to breathe when traveling long distances. So when you transport the elderly in an ambulance, you need to make sure that it has oxygen cylinders and a mask installed and can be used to supply oxygen when needed. Also, ensure that the staff is well-trained to handle small issues while traveling.
- Sometimes, seniors may not find it comfortable and feel insecure while traveling. It leads to mental ailments like dementia or Alzheimer’s. The medical staff who assists the patient must be aware of the issue and handle the situation well.
- When transporting the elderly, make sure they are well hydrated with fluids. This will help them prevent fatigue or health issues while transporting.
- It is necessary to carry all the medical records that include reports, medical history, and prescriptions of the elderly. The ambulance must have all the healthcare equipment and first aid for any uncertainty on the way.
Due to health conditions, choosing to stop driving is emotionally challenging for older people.
Seniors need to change their mindset and routine when switching from driving on their own to choosing a transport service.
However, there are many options to avail transport service for seniors. From low-budget options to expensive ones, you can choose at your convenience. Choosing a low-cost transport service may be difficult for people without public transport service.
Seniors can pre-book their riders with other transport services and attend travel training programs to know how to use different transport services. People who have difficulty going to the pick-up stops or navigating the route on their own can choose Medicaid or volunteer programs services.
As a caregiver, you can choose the best transport option for your loved ones and help them spend the golden years of their life the way they want.
We hope this information has been helpful and you will start using some of these transport options the next time around when you need to take your older loved ones to any place. We have tried to include options that will suit all budgets, with varying degrees of convenience and requirement of support.
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