By Briana Vannozzi
Ruth Mirrer loves using Uber. Today she’s off to a class at the Madison Area YMCA. But the 81-year-old doesn’t mess with apps and smartphones. She requests her ride through a new rides for seniors program with a company called GoGoGrandparent.
“It gives you more freedom and it enhances your life so you can stay in your community longer. I think it’s fabulous,” Mirrer said.
Seniors from the Chatham and Madison area register with their towns and receive a 1-800 number. They call and get linked to GoGoGrandparent: an on-demand transportation company based in California that acts as an interface with ride share companies Uber and Lyft.
“So they call our number, press one and a car comes to their home, picks them up and takes them where they need to go,” said GoGoGrandparent co-founder Justin Boogaard. “When they’re trying to get back they call our number and press two and a car picks them up where they were dropped off last. So it’s a lot faster and because of that we were able to make it a lot more affordable.”
On the options available to seniors who don’t have cars Madison Area YMCA President and CEO Diane Mann said, “There’s carpools, and then there’s your family and friends to get you here or you drive yourself.”
Each one-way trip, up to 15 miles outside the Chatham Borough, Township and Madison area, costs $5. The rest is subsidized through a new nonprofit called Tri-Town 55+ Coalition and a grant from the Grotta Fund for Senior Care.
“What we wanted to do is get seniors out at night because if you lose your driving privileges the more isolated you become,” said John Crouthamel, Tri-Town 55+ Coalition president.
“They will text a caregiver, a daughter, a son, a husband and let them know when they pick you up, what time and then let you know when they dropped you off. So it’s very comforting for the family and very reassuring for older people who are little nervous about using these innovations, so it makes it very user friendly,” Mirrer said.
Boogaard says the idea came from his grandmother who was getting around less and suffering the consequences.
“What’s been really cool is that people are able to do things they haven’t been able to do in a long time,” he said.
“Transportation is a major issue in almost everything that anybody talks about. And with seniors in particular, a lot of the senior transportation that does exist is geared toward medical, and there’s nothing for social, which is so important. We want to have seniors age in place,” said TransOptions President John Ciaffone.
“It has nothing to do with whether you can drive, it’s whether you want to drive. And if you don’t go out at night anymore because you’re afraid, or your cataracts prevent you from seeing the lines on the road, this is perfect,” Mirrer said.
So far the program has provided hundreds of rides to more than 140 registered seniors and the hope is the grant will extend beyond the June 30 deadline.