Transportation for Seniors: After the Car Keys Are Gone

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By Buckley Kuhn Fricker

 So now you (or your loved one) find yourself stuck at home. How will you buy groceries? Pick up prescriptions? Visit the mall? Get to the doctor’s office?

Transportation is probably the single most important worry faced by those who want to age at home but can no longer drive their own cars. The loss of independence is profound after a lifetime of being able to come and go wherever and whenever you pleased.

Enter drivers: City or county-sponsored discounted services; volunteer drivers from community and religious groups; specially-arranged taxi services – and, increasingly, paid private concierge-type services which provide not just driving, but also companion services.

The obvious advantage of the city-county provided transportation services is that, like volunteers, their services are free or low cost. A problem with these services is that they are relatively inflexible in terms of both pick-up times and destinations. Certain cab companies offer discounts and specially-trained drivers whose vehicles have wheelchair ramps (not lifts). You can buy or rent a wheelchair van. Rentals with drivers cost about $90 per hour. Purchasing a wheelchair van can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $45,000, but finding private van drivers can be difficult.

Concierge companion services will take you wherever you want to go when you want to go, just as if you were getting into your own car and driving yourself. They will take you to your doctor’s office and even sit in with you if you wish them to take notes. They will take you to your hair appointment. They will take you and your pet to the vet or the groomer. Like you, if you were driving yourself, they will make stops to buy a birthday gift for your niece, visit your favorite deli, and fill your prescriptions, while providing educated, warm companionship along the way.

Concierge companion services, such as those of the company I founded in 2005, are an excellent solution for many clients. Such private companies charge from about $40 to $60 per hour. They are not limited merely to providing driving services directed by the client; they provide services from grocery shopping to locating pet walkers and house cleaners for you, to locating and supervising handymen, plumbers and electricians for home maintenance needs, and, for many, sociable companion services to accompany you on your walks around the block or to the opera.

AAA estimates that driving a typical car an average distance per year costs the driver-owner about $7,823 per year. Older individuals tend to use their cars less frequently and over shorter distances, so let’s reduce that average to $5,000 per year. At $50/hr for driving and companion services by a private concierge, two hours of private driving, errand-running and companionship per week for one year would cost only $5,200. With concierge drivers, you have your own chauffeur for just a little more than you paid when you could still drive yourself in your own car.

Excerpt from Buckley’s book, Elder Care: The Road to Growing Old is Not Paved.  Visit theroadtogrowingold.com.

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