Something as simple as a ride to the store can be difficult for seniors who don’t drive.

Something as simple as a ride to the store can be difficult for seniors who don’t drive.

Shutterstock image


Seniors face challenges regarding transportation

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published October 25, 2017

 Making transportation convenient for seniors comes down to knowing what’s available.

Making transportation convenient for seniors comes down to knowing what’s available.

Shutterstock image

METRO DETROIT — Ensuring senior citizens have a means to travel can be a challenge in the metro Detroit area, and navigating the resources available to help them make it from point A to point B can be daunting.

Issues of transportation can weigh particularly hard on seniors because they often cannot own their own vehicles due to health reasons, such as mobility and eyesight. Many also are on fixed incomes and cannot afford some options that other people might be able to take advantage of.

“The hardest part for seniors is just getting around,” said Erin Monahan, assistant coordinator for the St. Clair Shores Senior Center for Active Adults. “They may lose transportation services, family may take their cars away, etc. It can be hard for them to ask for help and hard to find help.”

Additionally, the resources that are available often have limits placed on them due to issues of cost or practicality. Many only offer service for a specific city or geographic area, or during limited time frames.

“We have a challenge of sometimes finding affordable transportation across county lines, and transportation during the evenings and weekends can be more difficult to arrange,” said Roberta Habowski, the mobility project manager for the nonprofit Area Agency on Aging 1-B. “I think seniors would appreciate more affordable resources.”

One option was developed specifically to meet the growing need for senior transportation in the Birmingham and Bloomfield area. It is called The Schlepper, created by high school student Jackson Partrich.

“It’s giving seniors in the Oakland County community transportation and private transportation at an affordable price,” said Partrich. “It’s not just pickup and drop-off, because I can, for instance, go into the doctor’s (office) with them or go grocery shopping with them and help them fill out forms or push a cart around. It’s not just about taking them from place to place.”

Partrich, who began the service in July, said an often overlooked part of providing transportation for seniors — beyond providing a vehicle — is to provide a driver who is friendly and trustworthy.

The rate for Schlepper services is $16 per hour or $12 for a one-way trip. 

Other resources that seniors can take advantage of include a number of local nonprofits and groups whose aim is assisting senior citizens. Both the St. Clair Shores Senior Center for Active Adults and the Area Agency on Aging 1-B offer such services. Sometimes the best option for seniors is to check to see what the closest senior center would recommend.

“We have here at the agency a one-call, one-click mobility management service called MyRide2,” said Habowski. “It can be reached at (855) 697-4332 or by going to MyRide2.com, and we can help seniors find transportation options and find out their needs, their destinations, and present (them) with the best options. It also offers travel and driving safety for seniors and tips for using public transportation.”

“We offer van transportation services to St. Clair Shores residents,” said Monahan. “We service the St. Clair Shores area and an 8-mile radius outward. We have four buses, and we offer rides to any address in our radius. This includes restaurants, family members’ homes, doctor’s appointments, etc.”

Rates are $1 for a one-way trip and $2 for a two-way trip within St. Clair Shores, according to Monahan. The prices increase to $1.50 for a one-way trip and $3 for a two-way trip if going outside St. Clair Shores. The service is offered 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, and there also is limited service to specific store locations 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays. Caregivers ride for free.

Both Habowski and Monahan recommend the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation’s Connector services as well, and they mentioned some other private companies that can aid in helping seniors get from place to place.

“There is a company that works with Uber and Lyft called GoGoGrandparents that doesn’t require a smartphone — they can just be connected by any phone. They utilize the same services as Uber and Lyft, but geared toward those without smartphones,” said Habowski. “There’s also SMART’s Connector service, which offers curb-to-curb transportation options. You have to reserve it by calling (for) service. They require a six-day notice for medical appointments or two days for other appointments. SMART is geared toward Oakland and Macomb counties. It’s $1.65 for a one-way trip.”

The phone number for the SMART Connector service is (866) 962-5515. GoGoGrandparents can be reached at (855) 464-6872. Habowski noted that private companies tend to charge more than nonprofit organizations for transportation services.

Habowski said many seniors are wary of using ride services because they have to ride with a stranger they may not trust. Nonprofits almost always run background checks on their volunteers and employees, and Partrich said he takes a special effort in ensuring his drivers aren’t only capable on the road, but that they’re also friendly and helpful individuals.

“We do a background check. We make sure they have a clean driving record. We check their car,” said Partrich. “I meet with all of them personally. We want to not only make sure they’re legally able to drive, but they are good people and they are able to work with seniors and have conversations with seniors.”

Despite the challenges that are often common for seniors trying to navigate their transportation needs, Monahan said that ensuring seniors have the ability to travel — even if it’s just once or twice a week to the store or church — can be incredibly important and can mean a huge jump in their quality of life.

“We encourage seniors to give these services a try,” remarked Monahan. “It can be nerve-wracking to ask for help, and there can be an issue of pride in dealing with the issue that they can’t drive themselves anymore. Isolation is a big problem for seniors, so anything that gives them the ability to leave their home is a big step.”