Ridesharing Companies Look To Older Adults To Expand Marketshare

Published: Thursday, February 9, 2017 - 7:32am
Updated: Thursday, February 9, 2017 - 12:22pm

(photo courtesy of Lyft for Healthcare)

Phyllis Murchey is somewhat new to the valley. She moved to a Sunshine Retirement Living community in Surprise from California about three months ago and, today, she’s seeing a new doctor.

At 91, Murchey doesn’t have a driver’s license anymore, which can make finding transportation to appointments a little tricky.

"I have a daughter in Wittmann, but she works all week and can only come on Saturdays," Murchey explained. And she added the community’s shuttle service only runs every few days. 

But Murchey did find transportation to her doctor with a man named Adam in his red Chevy Cruz. Adam drives for Lyft and this ride is part of a new arrangement her community signed with the ridesharing company.

"As we have evolved as a company, we believe it translates very well into healthcare," said Dan Trigub, a manager with Lyft's elder mobility initiative. "And certainly for our elder population."

He said making the app work for a population that doesn’t always have a smart phone does come with some challenges.

For one, they won’t have the app to order the ride. And once the ride is ordered the driver can’t see exactly where the passenger is. Which is why, to make this work, Lyft and other ridesharing companies are entering partnerships with senior living communities. By leveraging the community's staff, all Murchey has to do to order her ride is call her community’s front desk. They take care of the ordering, ride monitoring and billing.

But just because these companies are making it easier for this market to use these services, are consumers in their 80s and 90s actually using it?

"We’ve had 30 percent of the residents in the pilot community take a ride through Lyft," said Andrew Smith the director of strategy and innovation at Brookdale, a national senior living chain. "And 50 percent of those residents are repeat riders."

His company is currently testing a ride sharing program in a handful of their communities, one of which is here in the valley.

Smith said that the demand is growing among his residents.

And transportation experts like Carol Wright, with the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, said that demand for accessible transportation is only expected to grow as baby boomers get older.

"If there are enough numbers of people who want a certain thing, the market is going to respond accordingly," Wright said. "And I think transportation is going to be one of those things."

Breaking the numbers down, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2029 there will be more than 71 million baby boomers over 65. That’s expected to make up about 20 percent of the total U.S. population.

But Wright added, appealing to this market is more than just a good business opportunity, offering more transportation options to older adults can help reduce the social isolation many people face when they lose their license.

"When we become more socially isolated we fall vulnerable to things like depression," Wright said.

For ridesharing companies and senior living communities, these pilot programs are still working through a few small hiccups. Though, for the most part, they say the partnerships are helping serve a community that for a long time had few options for transportation. 

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