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Every needs assessment or study of senior services always comes up with the same conclusion: transportation is the number one need cited by older persons. Being mobile represents independence and access to the community, to friends, church, health providers, shopping and more. So, the advent of Uber, Lyft and ride sharing services and the future dawning of driverless cars represent breakthroughs for older persons who live in areas where these services exist.
The New York State Legislature is now deciding whether to allow Uber and ride sharing services and they should approve them without delay. An article in Forbes magazine by an Uber driver says that seniors make up a big and growing market, perhaps up to 40% of their business. The driver noted that for many seniors, their children and grandchildren load the ride sharing app on their cellphones and then teach them how to use it to hail a ride. It’s all very simple. My son did the same for me and my wife when we were in San Francisco a few months ago and we used the Lyft service all over the city. The app notifies a driver in the area where you are and in a matter of minutes, he or she shows up.
Technology and the sharing economy are changing lifestyles in big ways and this shows how it will impact older persons for the better. Uber and Lyft also help enhance the idea of the villages I have discussed which function in some ways as self help coops. In fact, older persons themselves, especially new retirees could become drivers to earn a little extra money.
In a few years we will see driverless cars on the road. We don’t know how these will work with ride sharing but it is easy to imagine again, hailing a car to take you somewhere at any hour. People might be a little hesitant at first to try these but they are coming. The same concepts cars use with GPS satellites, the tiny rear warning cameras and automatic braking to avoid crashes are the first examples of what computers and satellite technology can do for driving.
It’s a world that a few years ago no one could imagine. If someone had told me about driverless cars when I was a kid or even a few decades ago, I have would have said they were crazy!