A Guide to Finding Free Transportation for Seniors in 2023
Traveling can become difficult as one ages. But that’s not to say it cannot be done in comfort. Some senior transportation services in the country cater to this very difficulty and help with easy and efficient travel for seniors. Not just that, some options also allow free rides, or rides at discounted price to senior citizens. Check out this list of options that are easily available and accessible.
Medical transportation for seniors
This policy provides free transportation for seniors. However, it is limited to any kind of a medical emergency requiring an ambulance. For other non-urgent doctor or hospital visits, Medicare does not provide any free transportation to seniors.
On the other hand, Medicaid offers seniors several kinds of transportation benefits. Apart from the emergency transport services provided, you can also avail of non-urgent medical transport services, which may involve visiting the hospital for some tests or a doctor’s appointment. They have a different set of services called Non Emergency Medical Transport Services through which all these transfers are taken care of. Seniors with any disabilities can also book their transport through this service. The only thing to be careful of is that non-medical visits need to be planned well in advance to avoid any surge in demand at a given time. With a plan and a schedule, the rides are easy to get, and you can easily reach your doctor’s appointments on time.
They also have another program called the Personal Care Attendant program. Those who opt for this program usually need help with daily activities due to their limited mobility skills. These daily tasks can include helping seniors bathe, dress up, use the restroom and more. Transportation is another chore that needs help and the attendant can take care of these needs under the PCA program. If you are a senior who is using the Paratransit services, which are government-sponsored, then you may avail the benefits of this program. You can read more about those services ahead.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are other ways of getting free transportation. However, these two programs usually only cover those working impaired people. But, if you manage to get SSI or SSDI, then you are eligible to get Medicare or Medicaid, and these two programs can help you get free rides for medical and non-emergencies. Speak to someone at one of these programs to get some more details on understanding the criteria for enrollment.
Other senior transportation options
Medical travel is essential for seniors, but what about free rides to social gatherings, events and other programs? Thankfully there are some options available which give seniors like you the comfort of choice between the kind of transportation programs to sign up for.
Seniors’ Supplemental Transportation Programs
There is a list of local supplemental transportation programs available to seniors, which they can browse through to avail transportation for their needs. These programs include The Eldercare Locator, 2-1-1, Aging and Disability resource center, AARP, Beverly Foundation Supplemental Transportation Program Map, National Care on Senior Transportation, Public Transportation dot org, and State departments of transportation. Some organizations like the American Public Transportation Association and Community Transportation Association of America, help with these transportation and mobility services.
This is a thorough list of services that can provide free rides to seniors for medical related appointments, as well as other social activities or just helping out with chores that need driving.
The paratransit services provide transportation services for seniors that are disabled or wheelchair bound. The vehicles used for these kinds of rides are wheelchair accessible; they can be vans or microbuses. Depending on your location, you can choose to get a private ride to your destination or even use it as a public transport. The prices are low as it is government sponsored, making it illegal to be unaffordable to most seniors.
Discounted public transportation for seniors
You need not sign up for this anywhere. If you are a senior citizen who is comfortable taking public transport to various places to finish chores or for social gatherings and events, then general public transport is a great option. Depending on where you live, the discounts can vary, but seniors can easily access discounted rides on public transportation in all the cities.
Transportation via a care facility
If you are living in a care facility or a housing community for seniors, transportation can be provided to you at affordable pricing at these facilities. In fact, one of the pros of living in a senior care facility is that there are several benefits, like transportation that are easily available to seniors. You can even share rides with your peers to social gatherings. If there is a medical emergency, rest assured that there will be someone to help you and drive you to emergency care during a crisis.
Volunteer driving for senior transportation
Apart from some government-sponsored free ride programs for seniors, there are some volunteer driving programs for seniors as well. These can be part of NGOs or government programs focused on elderly care with volunteer opportunities.
National Volunteer Transportation Center – Programs for the Elderly
They run a National Center on Senior Transportation, which is a volunteer transportation program to help seniors with their chores and other medical needs. Some of the benefits of using their service include:
- Tailoring the needs of the rider and matching a volunteer to them who can help them the most. So this ensures there is no mismatch between the volunteer and the rider.
- The driver and the vehicle stay with the rider throughout the chore/need. This ensures the safety of the senior rider, that they will not be abandoned at a destination with no way to return home comfortably and safely.
- The transportation is not just in the same locality. You can also book a ride to other counties because they understand that many care facilities or medical facilities may not be available in the same area.
The role of the volunteer is more holistic than just a driver. They can also act as an assistant for the day, which is called a door through door or hand-to-hand service. This allows you to ask them for help in anything apart from driving you to a particular destination. If you have bags that need to be carried, the volunteer is capable and has signed up to help you with these requests.
There are different services under this program in different states like EZ Ride Community Cars, Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee, Mountain Empire Older Citizens, Partners in Care, Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services Board/Area Agency on Aging, Mid East Area Agency on Aging.
This volunteer program allows seniors to live an independent life either in their own homes or community care by providing them access to various social programs and support services. Here’s how it works:
- You can locate the Partner Network closest to you using the interactive map NV Rides has.
- Once you have found the closest Partner Network, let them know about the date and time for when you need the ride.
- The assigned driver will then call you a day before the ride and confirm the pickup time and if there are any other instructions.
The drivers that volunteer with NV Rides go through a rigorous background check, and DMV check at no extra cost to you. They also receive one-on-one training to deal with appropriate requests and situations that they may encounter when dealing with seniors. Also, one of the essential qualities that NV Rides look for in a volunteer is the desire to help someone and do their part in helping the community be a safe space. All these safety checks ensure that the driver is empathetic and willing to help. The drivers are required to have their own vehicles.
This is essentially a fundraising platform that also runs a volunteer driving program for the elderly. They run an initiative called the Hearts and Hands program which allows people to volunteer to drive seniors to their doctor’s appointments or drive them to finish their errands. The volunteer driver assigns themselves to requested trips which they can fulfill, depending on the schedule, and they give a free ride to the seniors in their own vehicle. The driver, in fact, also gets mileage reimbursement under this program, along with supplemental insurance on the vehicle. They provide transport services to medical facilities, grocery stores, shopping centers, social events, salons, banks, and other community centers.
Community Transportation Association of America
This organization solely works on providing access to free or affordable rides to those in need, including senior citizens. This can be for work, education, human services programs, and health care needs. Becoming a member of the CTAA ensures that your transportation needs are taken care of. If you have any queries, they have a whole staff dedicated to providing customer service and will be happy to answer them. These are all experts in the transportation profession, so you can expect accurate and informative answers to your questions related to community and public transportation. They are constantly working to improve transportation needs through technological innovation and dialogue and are always looking to provide solutions to any issues that come up. The team is also empathetic about understanding the importance of affordable transportation needs and therefore works towards giving their best.
Independent Transportation Network
Also known as ITN America, this is another popular non-profit transportation service provider for seniors. They work with several affiliated services that provide transportation to seniors from eleven different communities across ten states, from Maine to Florida to California. By focusing on grassroots models, they are able to provide service on a national level.
They also introduced a program called ITNCountry, which is a transportation solution that caters to needs in small towns and rural areas. They truly believe a community driver initiative can help elevate everyone’s experiences. So with ITNCountry, they encourage the community members to form a volunteer program which seniors can benefit from. It can even extend to basically anyone in need. It can be for work, health care needs, or even for families needing transportation help.
Besides this, they have some other award-winning programs. Here’s a brief about them:
Ride and Shop
This is for a business that would like to volunteer to cater to their senior customers’ transportation needs. These businesses, like pharmacies, general stores, or any other shop, can tie up with ITN and help their senior customers reach their shops at affordable pricing.
This is specifically for local healthcare providers. These hospitals or other healthcare providers and services partner with ITN to ensure that their senior patients do not miss their appointments and can easily reach the emergency room whenever necessary. This initiative ensures that seniors go to their appointments on time and there are fewer cancellations. Knowing that the patients have easy access to a ride during an emergency is also a relief.
This is especially useful for low-income seniors who cannot afford rides. The volunteer drivers use their credits to pay for these rides and also help contribute to a scholarship program. There is a driver credit system to follow, which benefits the volunteers and is, in a way, payment in kind for their services. There is a community road scholarship program the local community sets up for the volunteers. The volunteers can then donate the credits they earn from volunteering by transferring them into a resident’s account to anyone in need. So the thought of giving becomes more community driven and helps uplift every member of the town.
This is a wonderful initiative for anyone who has a car but does not use it often. Volunteers can use this vehicle to transport riders from one place to another if there is a shortage of available vehicles. It is like a car rental service, except it’s free and for the community. Not only does it help the rider and driver, but it also helps the person whose car would otherwise just be unused in their garage and probably develop engine issues over time due to less usage.
Other affordable ride options
Go Go Grandparent
They are known for providing concierge services to seniors for grocery runs, doctor appointments, meals, and more. These services are provided in affiliation with other companies like Uber, DoorDash, Instamart, and similar companies. All the rider has to do is call their number and request the service needed. They not only help you find a reliable driver where you can book a ride within 15 mins or even book in advance, but you can also order your groceries, vitamins, and other household items that can be delivered to your doorstep. If you do not feel like cooking, you can even order takeout and explain your food preference, making your lunch or dinner even more enjoyable. If you need any medications delivered from your local pharmacy, instead of riding to the store, they can easily deliver them to you. If you live alone with a pet and need help with a pet walker, worry not, Go Go Grandparent will arrange a reliable dog walker for you. You do not even need a smartphone to use these services. This system works on a simple speed dial system. All you have to do is know the correct number for the service, and you’re good to go.
This is a top-rated service for anyone looking to book a ride. For seniors, they provide a concierge service which is usually in tie up with the local assisted living community or other similar centers. The fares are generally lower than the regular taxi fare, so this is a good option if you are comfortable with that. If you are good with a smartphone and can easily use the app, you can book a ride any time you want and even in advance if necessary. If you are uncomfortable using a smartphone, you can take help from a neighbor or a family member to help you through the process. This will help you book your rides by yourself in the future if you are willing to learn.
Veyo specifically works towards providing non-emergency medical rides to seniors in need. They also have special vehicles which can accommodate wheelchairs or stretchers if needed. This company partners with various insurance companies and health facilities to provide affordable and, in some cases, free transportation to seniors. One limitation of this service is that seniors cannot book rides for their appointments individually. The booking can only be made through a healthcare provider. So unless your insurance company or healthcare provider works with Veyo as a transportation service, you will not be able to use the service independently.
Ride sharing services for seniors
This is a service that is very similar to Go Go Grandparent. This service does not require you to have a smartphone. All you need to do is call on the number and put in your request for the day. You can speak to a customer executive directly and explain your requirement in detail, who will then coordinate with the driver available and explain exactly what is needed. You also do not have to worry about paying the driver after the ride. The company takes care of the payment and sends you a receipt later, which you can clear at your convenience. The limitation of this service is that they do not have cars that are wheelchair accessible, so it is almost like using Uber or Lyft service without having to go through the hassle of using a smartphone for booking. Also, they are open from 9 am to 6 pm Pacific time, which makes it difficult for the other side of the country to benefit from the service.
They partner with various senior organizations, transit agencies, and healthcare providers to cater to the senior population’s transport needs. The transit agencies are FTA compliant, on-demand paratransit services, senior organizations include PACE and similar senior living communities, and healthcare providers are dedicated to providing door-through-door service focused on safety and privacy. The drivers undergo a rigorous background check to ensure everything is in place and all safety checks are done.
Ride With Via
This carpooling service is especially extremely popular in New York among seniors. Like Uber or Lyft, which has a rideshare service, this also works on a similar algorithm. Once you have booked a ride, the car will pick you up along with some other passengers in the nearby area and drop you all off one by one at your destinations. The rides may sometimes be longer than usual, but they are affordable and safe. They offer services like micro-transit, paratransit, health transportation, and more.
Foundations funding volunteer driver programs
According to a report by the Grantmakers in Aging, there are many challenges to seniors transportation programs. However, some foundations cater to some of these challenges by providing appropriate funding to help find solutions. Some of these organizations include The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation, Retirement Research Foundation, Winter Park Health Foundation, and Archstone Foundation. There is also the Beverly Foundation which provided insight and funding to volunteer driving programs which have helped the community tremendously. However, after some years of running, the organization shut down but continued to inspire many more to give back to the community in the form of volunteer programs to help uplift the community members.
The national volunteer transportation center
This is a center for all things related to senior transportation programs and related services. They are not a service provider, but they are a foundation that collects resources and gives free information for people to know more about these programs, where to find them, how to get in touch with them, and so on. They provide resource material on volunteer driver programs, ride-sharing initiatives, and other technical resources around the same. Some of the information on volunteer driver programs revealed interesting facts after a survey, and here is what you need to know:
- There are volunteer vehicles available for the programs. However, volunteer drivers often use their own cars or even lease vehicles for these programs. This may result in increasing some costs of providing the service.
- While the program is volunteer service, some drivers are paid. When these drivers are in service, the cost of the service can increase.
- There is some misunderstanding about the jurisdiction of these volunteer driving services. However, in some areas, many programs provide services beyond their county, city, or even state.
- These volunteer programs are not just limited to urban spaces. In fact, many of these programs cater to the rural senior population and are more specific to some rural areas.
- According to reports and statistics, volunteer driver programs are low-risk transportation services. There have been very few crashes that involve any property damage or bodily injury.
- Since many programs are funded by charitable organizations or service foundations, the transportation is free, but there are a few programs where an affordable fare may be charged to the rider.
- Technically, the volunteer driver’s insurance should cover the damage for any injuries or property, but it is advised that the program should have insurance of its own in such cases.
- While some volunteer programs run independently, many programs run in affiliation with senior or human service organizations. In fact, some seniors living in community housing facilities may have free or affordable transportation service options available, which can make mobility easy and accessible.
- Regardless of how big the network is, there are inexpensive software that can help with the ride booking process and algorithm. This means that the programs do not have to charge the riders extra for this technology.
Senior transportation is a crucial aspect of a senior’s life. Being able to move around freely, especially when you live alone with no family around, can be a hassle. Being able to approach these assisted volunteer driving programs can come as a relief, especially during emergencies. Thanks to community-driven initiatives, there are many programs to even help with simple, daily things like grocery shopping or buying medicines and vitamins. Meals can also be delivered to your doorstep if you know which service to approach. It can get a little overwhelming initially, so have a family member help you with a list of resources and contact numbers which you may use in the future. And then, once you explore some details yourself, you may have a better idea of which services suit you the best.