Transportation Resources Caregivers Need to Know (2023)

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About 600,000 older adults stop driving each year, according to USAging, the national association for Area Agencies on Aging. That can make it harder for aging or ill loved ones to make doctor's appointments, shop for necessities, visit family or attend social events. That, in turn, increases their isolation, whichnegatively affects health and well-being.

Transportation is often a major responsibility for caregivers. More than 40 percent of older and disabled adults rely on family, friends and neighbors for rides, and around three-quarters of caregivers list providing or arranging transport as one of their primary duties, according to a 2021 survey by the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC), a program administered by USAging and Easterseals that promotes accessible transit.

But providing transportation is not always easy or convenient. “Some family caregivers just can't leave their job every time somebody needs a ride to the doctor, much less even to the grocery store,” says Virginia Dize, a USAging program director and codirector of the NADTC.

Finding alternatives for times you can't get your loved one where they need to go likely will require some research. But a variety of options are available that can lessen the burden on caregivers and help older and disabled people keep appointments and stay socially connected.

When you can't provide a ride

The types of transit available differ widely from location to location, as do opportunities for specialized or discount service.

Metropolitan areas tend to be transportation-rich, with public bus, rail or trolley lines and various commercial options. In small towns and rural regions, you might have to rely on prebooked “demand response” services or volunteer organizations.

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In a joint publication on transportation options, NADTC and Eldercare Locator, a federal directory of local services for older adults, list several programs and services geared in varying degrees to helping older and disabled people get around. Remember that not all of these options are available everywhere, but your area is likely to feature at least some.

Public transit

Primarily bus and rail services, operated and financed by federal, state and local governments, with fixed routes and set schedules, these systems usually offer discounted fares for older adults and people with disabilities. Vouchers may be available as well.

Some transit agencies and local aging or disability organizations provide free training to help riders learn to travel safely. Buses, railcars and stations usually will have accessibility features, but public transit might not be a suitable alternative for people who will have difficulty navigating stairs, waiting outside or walking to and from stops.


Public transit agencies are required by law to provide “complementary paratransit service” for people who are unable to use regular lines. Paratransit operates during the same hours as normal service and covers comparable routes.

Riders must meet eligibility criteria set out in the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Vehicles typically are vans outfitted for accessibility.

Trips should be scheduled at least a day in advance and generally are shared with other passengers who have booked similar times. Paratransit providers typically have a 30-minute pickup window, from 15 minutes before to 15 minutes after the scheduled time, so riders need to be ready and waiting at least 15 minutes early.

Demand response

Sometimes called Dial-a-Ride, demand response is another shared-ride service, carrying multiple passengers who book individually with different pickup points and destinations. Reservations usually must be made at least 24 hours in advance, online or by phone.


Some communities require locally licensed taxi fleets to include accessible vehicles. They also may offer taxi vouchers to older and disabled riders.


Ride-hailing companiessuch as Lyft and Uber connect passengers with drivers who provide point-to-point transportation in their own vehicles. Booking and payment are typically done viamobile apps.

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In some cities, riders can request wheelchair assistance as part of their booking, and the companies have expanded accessibility efforts in recent years. The Uber Assist program trains drivers to accommodate passengers who have mobility issues and use wheelchairs, walkers or scooters. Lyft is teaming with United Way to provide free rides through the 211 phone service for people who have difficulty using public transit.

Users who don’t have a mobile device or aren’t comfortable using apps can request rides via theLyftandUberwebsites. Both companies also offer limited call-in service. You canorder a Lyft by phoneat 631-201-LYFT (631-201-5938) weekdays between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET.Uber’s phone service, currently available only in Arizona and Florida, can be reached at 833-USE-UBER (833-873-8237) from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. You must call by cell phone to use either service.

Another phone option isGoGoGrandparent, a subscription service that lets you book Uber and Lyft rides by calling 855-464-6872 from a cell phone or landline. Membership plans start at $9.99 a month. There's an additional “concierge” fee for processing and monitoring rides from request to drop-off. (The fees do not cover the fare itself.) Members can also call in to arrange meal and grocery delivery and other services from online providers such as GrubHub, DoorDash and Instacart.

Non-emergency medical transportation

NEMT, as it's known, is a Medicaid benefit that covers travel to medical appointments. Private insurance, including some Medicare Advantage plans, also may cover non-emergency medical transit; check with your provider.

Eligibility rules, types of destinations and allowable modes of transport vary from state to state. Taxis, wheelchair vans or vehicles dispatched by specialty brokers or community groups often provide the service, but a growing number of insurers and state Medicaid programs are covering Lyft and Uber rides.

Volunteer programs

Some nonprofit and faith-based organizations offer transportation for medical appointments or other destinations. This might include “door-to-door” or “door-through-door” service for passengers who need someone to help them get in and out of cars and buildings, or stay with them throughout the trip.

Volunteer drivers provide rides in their own cars or agency-owned vehicles. They should undergo training and a background check.

Trips are usually prearranged and may require a small fee.

How to find transit options

Transportation information rarely comes from a single go-to source, although emerging strategies in public transit aim to fill that gap. Some local and regional transit organizations have developed “one-call/one-click” centers or "mobility management" programs to help people quickly find, assess and even book transportation services online or by phone.

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Caregiver support programs, elder care and social service agencies, and family and friends can also be good resources.

"Do a little exploration in the community about what's available, so that even before you need the service, you know what's available,” Dize says.

Here are some ways to start your search:

Use the Eldercare Locator

“Transportation is consistently the number-one reason people call the Eldercare Locator,” says Joellen Leavelle, communications director for n4a.

The website, operated by the federal government's Administration for Community Living, can direct you to the nearest Area Agency on Aging for information and referrals on transit options.

You can also access the Eldercare Locator by phone at 800-677-1116.

Find a mobility manager

Mobility managers work with communities to develop coordinated transportation programs and help individual customers, particularly older, disabled and low-income people, navigate the range of transit options in their area.

Your local public transit agency, Area Agency on Aging or Center for Independent Living (CIL) can connect you with a mobility manager if one serves your area. The National Center for Mobility Management has an online directory of state and regional programs.

Dial 211

The 211 phone code is reserved for callers to get information and referrals for health and social services in their community, including transportation and other support for older and disabled Americans.

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The 211 service is available in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and reaches 94.6 percent of the U.S. population.

United Way chapters operate and finance most call centers. You can get more information on 211 and find your local service at

Learn more about seniors and mobility

  • Car accessories for disabled adults and their caregivers
  • What to do when a loved one has trouble getting around
  • How to make a home safe for your aging parent


What are the transportation services? ›

Transportation services include the movement of goods and services, people, and animals from one location to another by rail, road, air, sea, cable, space, or pipeline. Transportation services can be divided into three different areas: infrastructure, vehicles, and operations.

Why is transportation important for seniors? ›

Transportation is necessary for seniors to remain mobile to keep their social independence with friends and family; to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and many other life-prolonging benefits. The resources below are designed to help get seniors where they need to go.

What can be used to transport patients? ›

Sometimes patients are not permitted or are physically unable to walk from their rooms to other areas of the hospital. In these cases, patient transporters use wheelchairs and stretchers to help move patients safely to other areas to receive treatment, take tests, recover from recent procedures, and more.

How do seniors get around without a car? ›

County public transportation services for seniors

Most counties across the U.S. offer free or low-cost public transportation services designed for seniors who need door-to-door rides. The best way to find these programs is to call your county's Area Agency on Aging. They'll connect you with available local programs.

What are the 7 types of transportation? ›

The different modes of transport are air, water, and land transport, which includes rails or railways, road and off-road transport. Other modes also exist, including pipelines, cable transport, and space transport.

What are the 4 types of transportation? ›

Air, Road, Sea and Rail. These are the four major modes of transport (or types) in the logistics industry.

Should people over the age of 65 ride the bus for free? ›

Scientists say that free bus travel is very useful and beneficial for elderly. Researchers believe that concessionary bus passes make older adults happier. They allow people to maintain their active lifestyle, to see new places and do new things.

What is Nadtc? ›

NADTC Provides resources and training on accessible transportation to empower communities and support individuals. We are a program of the Federal Transit Administration administered by Easterseals and USAging. Learn More About NADTC.

How do senior citizens get around? ›

Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft give seniors access to a car, anywhere if they have a smartphone. If the senior isn't comfortable with a smartphone, their loved ones can order the ride from their smartphone.

What is patient transport service? ›

What is the Patient Transport Service? Patient transport is a service provided to patients who are unable to attend their hospital appointments by public or private transport due to their medical condition.

What should you assess before transferring a patient? ›

Ensure patient's privacy and dignity. Assess ABCCS/suction/oxygen/safety. Ensure tubes and attachments are properly placed prior to the procedure to prevent accidental removal. A slider board and full-size sheet or friction-reducing sheet is required for the transfer.

How do I get around if I can't drive? ›

Transportation options will vary depending on your community
  1. Volunteer Programs. Some faith-based and community non-profit organizations often have people who volunteer to drive older adults to various places. ...
  2. Paratransit Services. ...
  3. Door-Through-Door Services. ...
  4. Public Transportation. ...
  5. Taxi Services.

Does Uber give discounts to seniors? ›

Senior: 2 Free Rides for Senior Citizens

No matter who requests the ride, as long as there's an elderly with a valid senior citizen ID – discounts apply! With fares the same as UberX, we are here to offer you a safe and affordable ride – no matter how old you are!

How can an elderly person use LYFT? ›

Lyft works with, a Jitterbug medical alert and phone company, to offer a rideshare service for seniors. They don't even have to use the app to schedule a ride. Instead, they can go on their Jitterbug phone, type zero, and an operator will schedule the Lyft.

What is the purpose of transportation services? ›

The transport service is a subset of the transport activity aimed at meeting the needs of people and characterized by the availability of the necessary technological, economic, information, legal and material resources. Transport service implies not only the actual transportation of goods or passengers.

Why is transportation services important? ›

Transportation is needed because few economic resources—raw materials, fuels, food, manufactured goods—are located where they are wanted. Each region or place on Earth produces more than it consumes of some goods and services and less than it consumes of others.

What is a transportation service provider? ›

Transportation Service Provider means any Person whose primary business is (i) the provision of transportation to or for occupants in Vehicles, (ii) the provision of hardware, software or connected services (or combinations thereof) to enable Occupants to access and use software or connected services for or within a ...


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