Age-Friendly Discussion Groups

Transportation: Building Lifelong Transportation Options

For decades, many Americans have relied on a culture of cars and road infrastructure as our primary transportation option to get from one place to another. But safe, reliable and easy-to-use transportation options for people of all ages are critical to making a community age-friendly and therefore essential for optimal aging. Driver education classes can help, as can alternative travel options including ride-hail companies (Uber, Lyft), buses, trains, ferries and specialized options like special needs transportation to and from medical appointments.

Cars have changed dramatically since many of us earned our first driver’s license, but there is an easy way to update your driving skills and extend your driving years. For more than 35 years, AARP’s Smart Driver course has provided education to help drivers of any age improve their skills and become more confident behind the wheel. When taking courses online or in person, participants learn the current rules of the road, defensive driving techniques and how to operate their vehicle more safely in today’s challenging driving environment. To locate a classroom workshop, visit www.aarp.org/findacourse or call toll-free to 877-846-3299. To register for an online course, visit www.aarpdriversafety.org/. Classroom fees are $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Online fees are $19.95 for members and $24.95 for non-members.

No one who relies on their car wants to face the idea that they may lose their ability to drive safely as they age, but the fact is that one in five people over 65 no longer drives. That gap in perception can be problematic when more than 80 percent of drivers never talk with their family or doctors about planning for a time when they need to give up the keys. “On average, we outlive our driving years by a decade,” says AARP transportation researcher Jana Lynott. “We all have to educate people about some of the challenges that go hand in hand with the benefits of living longer.”

One bridge between using personal vehicles and public transportation is the increasingly popular option of using services like Uber and Lyft with a smartphone. These services are available on-demand and are easy to use. No money changes hands and specialized vehicles are available in some communities for people who need to travel with mobility equipment like a wheelchair or walker. There are also companies that help connect riders with drivers with a simple phone call. GoGoGrandparent.com provides a 24/7 service to help older adults connect with Uber and Lyft drivers for a small fee, $0.27 per minute. Families can sign up to get texts when a loved one is on the move. Riders can even add frequent locations to their account that correspond with a number on their phone keypad. No smartphone required. Questions about the service can be answered by calling 855-464-6872.

Learning how to navigate public transportation options is a great way to expand where you go and how you get there. However, navigating public transportation can be a bit unnerving for new passengers. Snohomish County’s Community Transit provides free travel training to teach riders how to use their regular route bus system. Think of it as Bus Riding 101. These services provide individual instruction, as well as group presentations. Call Community Transit in Snohomish at 425-348-2379 for more information. Reach King County Metro Transit for training at 206-749-4242 and Pierce Transit is available at 253-581-8000.