Can my senior citizen mother use Uber or Lyft without a smartphone?
October 15, 2016 2:14 PM   Subscribe

She drives but can't go far, doesn't have friends where she lives (so can't ask someone else to drive her), and isn't the socializing type. I'd like to find a way to make her more mobile for shopping and doctors' appointments. Lyft or Uber seem like possible options, but she doesn't have a smartphone, and barely can use a cell phone. She can use her home computer. She lives in Hacienda Heights, CA.

I looked around but did not see an obvious way to arrange rides without a smartphone or at least a desktop computer. Is there no way to make arrangements by phone? Supposing that in the worst case, the only option is to use the web, would it work to make 2 ride arrangements in advance (one to get there, one for the return)? Or is there some other option available?

Further snowflake details: she has arthritis, so walking and other mobility is quite difficult. This might be a factor in the type of vehicle that picks her up.
posted by StrawberryPie to Travel & Transportation around Hacienda Heights, CA (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can she just call a regular taxi cab number, and have them send a driver to pick her up when she needs it? Depending on the volume of taxis, she may need to call quite ahead, but yes, it is possible to schedule taxi pick ups in advance.
posted by ellerhodes at 2:35 PM on October 15, 2016 [10 favorites]

This is the kind of thing my grandpa used to do as a volunteer for a local seniors' group (or maybe it was through his church?) I can't quite remember, and I googled to try and narrow it down and got a billion results for this kind of thing (both volunteer and paid services).
posted by quaking fajita at 2:44 PM on October 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I looked into this for my father, who really shouldn't be driving. You can't use Uber or Lyft without a smartphone - the phone has to have GPS, and I think you need mobile data as well. Depending on what your mother is willing to try, you could get her a smartphone, and set it up for her with no icons at all on the top screen, except for Uber and/or Lyft, and probably one for the phone. Uber and Lyft are pretty simple to use, once they're set up (which you could do for her: make the accounts, and turn on GPS and mobile data). She'd have to keep the phone charged - the GPS and mobile data will probably wear down the battery faster than otherwise, but then all she'd need to do would be press a few buttons to call a car.

Otherwise, especially if she needs rides for things like appointments and shopping, that can be planned in advance, you're probably best off looking into some of the senior help services.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:58 PM on October 15, 2016

Not sure if this works for you but I have used the Uber app to hail a car for my mother who was not with me at the time. I make it clear to the driver that it's my mom, she's waiting outside the Safeway or wherever.

But, I have chatted with a lot of Uver/Lyft drivers and several of them have told me that they have older folks, who don't use the app, whom they drive around a couple of times a week.
posted by stowaway at 3:15 PM on October 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

My mom is in her late 60s and I got her an Android smart phone that is just like mine. She's awful with technology -- she says compared to her co-workers she is good with computer stuff, but as someone who is pretty tech savvy, I feel like she has no clue what she is doing a lot of time on the computer and she has to ask me the most basic of questions. When I got her the Android, it definitely took several training sessions (I got it for her over Christmas when I'd be with her for a while) but she can do it now. She's not great with it and can get confused easily, so I installed TeamViewer on her phone, which means that either from my computer or my phone, I can take control of her phone from 3,000 miles away. She is able to make calls, text, google things and play Words With Friends. (Words With Friends was good at getting her comfortable with the touchscreen mechanism, and it also keeps us in constant contact which is nice.) She is starting to get better at Google Maps too, but needs practice. I taught her how to check her stocks with her Fidelity app on a recent visit and she immediately forgot after I left, so she just googles each stock. I'd recommend you consider getting her a phone with TeamViewer or remote software so you can assist from afar. Having a smartphone will give her a lot of freedom.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:13 PM on October 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

stowaway makes a good point. Would it be possible to find someone in her community -- possibly a local Uber or Lyft driver? -- who would drive her around occasionally for a small fee?

I used to be the assistant to a semi-VIP type person, and she made an arrangement with an Uber driver she liked to be her "driver". So rather than call an Uber every time she needed to do a thing, we'd just call him in advance and negotiate the fee completely outside of the site. Uber and Lyft don't bar you from making your own private ride-sharing arrangements. Don't even get me started on why this person needed to have a "driver" in the first place but it was a useful thing to know that you can do.
posted by Sara C. at 4:47 PM on October 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've arranged Uber rides for my daughter; like stowaway, I called the driver and told him it was not me, but my daughter and where she would be, then called my daughter and told her the make and license of the car.
posted by chazlarson at 6:44 PM on October 15, 2016

Look into Lyft Concierge.
posted by lunalaguna at 11:22 AM on October 16, 2016

Best answer: With the limited mobility, would she qualify for paratransit? Looks much cheaper than Uber/Lyft ($0.50 for seniors traveling locally!), and has flexible routes.
posted by *s at 9:49 AM on October 17, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you for the suggestions so far. To answer some questions in case it helps steer other replies in the future:

Taxis: I've had real hit and miss experiences with taxis in the SoCal area, so I wanted to look for other options (and hence my askmefi posting). Additional snowflake detail I should have mentioned: she has a significant European accent, which often makes her difficult for other people (especially people who themselves are not native English speakers) to understand. Since every taxi driver I've ever encountered in her area is of Latino descent, and they are not generally very patient, I predict communication is going to be difficult and frustrating. A taxi remains a backup option, however.

Getting her a simplified smartphone: I wish this were an option, but not with my mother. She really has a hard time understanding tech, something that is compounded by her having little common sense in general. Things you think would be learnable/trainable require so much patience I can no longer stand to do it. (I know it sounds harsh, and some people will think I'm being an unkind asshole, but ... I have decades of experience with this issue. Even when I manage to stockpile enough patience to give something a go, and I think I succeeded in showing her how to work simple tech, and things look like they're working out, she will at some future point do something so unexpected and completely beyond my ability to predict that I've learned to avoid it.)

Having me act as intermediary: That would work, but it obviously requires me to be in the loop, and I'm hoping to avoid that. But it is an option.

Paratransit: A good idea – I will investigate this. Dial-a-ride is something else in her area, and may work.
posted by StrawberryPie at 12:17 PM on October 17, 2016

Response by poster: Whoa, clarification: when I wrote "they are not generally patient", I meant taxi drivers, not people of Latino descent! Holy shit that came out wrong.... So sorry.
posted by StrawberryPie at 5:39 PM on October 17, 2016

This is a very late answer, but somehow I remembered this question had been asked: Uber now has added a feature to request a ride for someone else. Someone with the Uber app needs to request the ride, but the rider only needs to be able to receive a text message.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:41 AM on June 28, 2017

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