Residents can have transportation freedom with minimal cost and effort by the operator.
By Ryan McManus, SHARE
Transportation freedom is a luxury that not all age groups can afford. According to data from the U.S. Administration on Aging, the percentage of the U.S. population age 65 and older increased by more than 12.5 percent from 1999 to 2009. With baby boomers aging, that number is projected to increase continually.
Whether a senior chooses to live in a community or age at home, the ability to travel at their leisure is key to happiness. Every aspect of transportation is changing. Seniors and seniors housing communities alike are positioned to be the big winners, as the market for vehicles goes from owned to shared with microtransit.
Microtransit is a new category of transportation, where private companies operate dynamic transit services for groups of riders in a community with an emphasis on sharing — it’s the middle ground between ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft and bus systems. Improving non-driving mobility in communities is often overlooked, so capitalizing on doing so provides senior living communities with a competitive edge.
When families are in the process of selecting a community, senior living facilities that can provide reliable transportation to doctors’ offices, grocery stores, local recreational facilities, restaurants, and shopping centers are a step ahead in giving the highest quality care. Providing access to community amenities combats social isolation and gives access to essential day-to-day resources.
Social isolation is the gap that develops between seniors and society due to lack of everyday contact. By keeping seniors mobile, socialization remains available, reducing the likelihood of social isolation.
Is it feasible for your facility to offer microtransit? In short, it is likely more cost-efficient than any transportation option you are currently offering. Luckily, there are three key benefits that a microtransit partner can offer your business.
- Redefine Trust Levels in External Transport Resources
Seniors aren’t as quick to adapt new technologies, and unfamiliarity with new platforms tends to be a road block. They do, however, tend to trust their facility managers. Establishing a partnership with a microtransit company that you have vetted helps combat the idea thattransportation services come with unknown drivers, unknown vehicles and unknown reliability.
Showing that you trust your partner gives seniors the confidence to capitalize on transportation resources — and possibly warm up to other technologies that they otherwise may have avoided in the past.
Creating a cycle of comfortability with new technologies for seniors allows them to be more independent. The feeling of independence is an additional tool to combat social isolation. Keeping seniors up to date with technology can help your facility to be proactive in combating social isolation and giving seniors the tools to own their daily activity planning.
Finally, there is a disconnect for a reliable transportation option to essential appointments for seniors. Doctor appointments are always important, but become even more vital with age. Many seniors have routine medical procedures scheduled that cannot be missed due to urgent health matters.
It is difficult to confirm an appointment with a medical specialist, and the last mishap a senior can afford is having to wait another six months for a pressing appointment that they have already waited months for. Whether they have to rely on family and friends or public transportation, there is always fear of whether they will miss the bus or that family and friends will have an outside commitment pop up. With outsourced professional transportation, seniors can rest easily knowing their medical transports are scheduled weeks in advance.
- Optimize Your Transport Budget
Most transportation programs are implemented out of necessity, and a common solution is purchasing a community van. While they seem like a good solution, vans, in reality, are a quick fix. In fact, the total cost of vehicle ownership divided by the number of rides is often shocking. Outsourcing can result in a cost-per-ride reduction of 25 to 75 percent, depending on the flexibility needed for riders.
Partnering with a microtransit company eliminates underutilized vans that sit idle and deteriorate 90 to 95 percent of the time. Additionally, your outsourcing contract is more cost efficient, as you’re likely paying for hidden fees with your community van (e.g. cost of vehicles, insurance, maintenance, parking, graphics, cleaning and drivers).
Finally, outsourcing allows for your employees to focus on their tasks at hand without having to worry about being stretched thin by transporting residents. Partnering with an outside company allows facility managers to simplify transportation budgets by providing data around exact cost-per-ride, allowing for more accurate expense numbers and return-on-partnership tracking.
- Bridge the Community Gap
All too often, seniors are socially isolated in their communities. Social isolation can cause long-term negative health effects, such as depression, high blood pressure and shorter life expectancy.
According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau 11 million (28 percent) adults aged 65 and older lived alone at the time of the census. Living alone can lead to isolation, especially if a senior can no longer drive.
Transportation can bridge the gap for residents in their communities, and “frequency of leaving” should be a leading metric for measuring the current state of your transportation program. According to a 2017 study published by The American Geriatrics Society, for elderly adults (age 70 to 90), leaving the house daily was associated with lower mortality risk, independent of social, functional or medical status.Providing data around frequency of leaving to seniors and families ensures satisfaction in a community experience.
Increasing senior engagement in the community boosts your local economy, in turn creating direct relationships with local business owners. Oftentimes, community businesses express interest in assisting with ride costs to bring more seniors to their location. Kick starting the local economy and improving the lives of seniors creates an ongoing circle of development.
In an effort to improve your business operations, you’re also creating a cycle of giving back without creating a separate strategy to do so. Accessibility becomes a community effort, and that is something many prospects and community stakeholders alike can appreciate.
Outsourcing transportation allows your community to optimize operations, boost your local economy and keep seniors engaged with the entirety of the city they live in. Utilizing microtrasit sets you ahead of the curve and positions your senior living community as a destination for seniors near and far.
Ryan McManus is the co-founder and chief executive officer of SHARE, a transportation service for the senior living and education industries, among others.