Optimizing Transportation at your Senior Facility

Optimizing Transportation at your Senior Facility

Published On: October 30, 2020|Sarah Pontier Ackerman

Older adult residents may get a lot of their needs met onsite at their senior facility. Your facility is probably designed with the majority of their needs in mind. However, being able to easily get off campus is often just as important as the amenities offered on campus.

Access to transportation is important and necessary

In the state of California, there is a requirement of all senior facilities - of all types - to have a documented and approved transportation plan for leisure and medical needs of residents. This includes, but is not limited to, access to medical and dental care for all residents, which are typically not services offered on most senior facility campuses.

Beyond state requirements, there’s a lot of data that shows social isolation for seniors increases as they age and lose the ability to drive. Over a third of seniors say they only feel comfortable driving during the day due to a health or physical reason and almost 20% of seniors don’t drive at all. That means about 50% of seniors can’t easily leave their senior facility campus without some level of assistance. Getting off campus allows residents to spend time with people they don’t see every day, enjoy their favorite hobbies and experience new things - all of which have proven to increase the quality of life and health of seniors as they age.

Transportation is often one of several amenities to manage

Today, there’s steep competition among senior facilities when vying for the attention of seniors on the cusp of making a lifestyle transition. And it’s no wonder, facilities are eager to innovate in the interest of their residents’ quality of life.

As residents age but retain their "active adult" status, services become increasingly important and the ability to experience activities off-campus is critical. Most seniors, regardless of their activity level, maintain happier and longer lives when their sense of purpose and entertainment takes them beyond their facility walls. Transportation is a key factor in accomplishing that goal and competing with other senior facilities.

While amenities and top-tier services like transportation give a competitive edge, it’s also clear that it costs facilities greatly. These costs include not just a financial burden - some budgets have services at around 30% of expenses - but a logistical and operational burden as well. With increased services comes increased management overhead for executing all services at a high quality. For transportation, the logistical hurdles can include managing a combination of many options, like buses, private cars, rideshare companies and public transportation.

Overhead of managing transportation can be high

Two of the most popular transportation options for senior facilities include a bus system and/or access to a car service, typically a rideshare company. While these options have been around for a long time, they often pose several challenges.

For in-house bus systems, there’s a lot of benefit and a lot of headache.

Facility bus systems require high levels of insurance and constant maintenance. Beyond the bus itself, facilities are also required to manage employing drivers, shift schedules and ensuring correct insurance, licensing and credentialing for their bus classification. There is typically a lot of bus down time and when in use, bus schedules tend to restrict residents by time and location, impeding their ability to gain full benefit from leaving their senior facility campus.

In the last decade, rideshare companies have been a go-to option for many senior facilities.

While this option is often inexpensive and responsive to last minute requests, there are several sources that call into question the safety and usability of these services for seniors. For example, there are known issues with trusting drivers around payment and proof that rideshare isn’t a great option for seniors getting to medical appointments.

While bus systems often have the added benefit of getting to know residents over time, rideshare companies take no effort to understand or get to know their riders, leaving older adults to feel like their care is being sacrificed for a discounted price.

Beyond the trustworthiness and impersonal aspects of using rideshare companies, it often becomes burdensome for facility staff to manage these last minute rides as they must carry the burden of assistance, not the drivers. Rideshare companies also have been known to leave seniors and those with disabilities stranded - without the senior knowing how to get themselves back to their facility.

Alternative ways to manage transportation

Well-staffed and funded, high-end senior facilities might find a full investment in a facility-run transportation department their highest quality option. Usually, this entails several transportation options, including but not limited to: on campus bus system, off campus bus system, van drivers, personal car services and special medical transportation.

While this offers the most extensive options to seniors, this level of service comes at a very steep price and is typically overabundant for the needs of most residents. Other senior facilities typically use a patchwork style piecing together several options not managed by the facility directly - like, personal car services, rideshare companies and medical transportation.

Onward Rides is a new innovation in senior transportation. Highly personalized and flexible to take over a facility’s current transportation system or simply add to it, we focus on compassionate assistance so residents can safely and confidently get off campus. Our drivers are CPR and First-Aid certified, have first hand experience helping older adults, go through an extensive vetting and onboarding process and most importantly, love spending time with riders.

Jennifer Bayard, SVP Clinical Operations @ Carlton Senior Living, had this to say about the Onward service, “I’ve gotten to know Onward over the past year and really love their service.Our facilities have been utilizing their door-to-door transportation for our residents. Some of our facilities have transportation in-house but they still rely on Onward to fill in the gaps when a ride is needed that they can’t fill. The executive directors throughout the East Bay have all given Onward top marks for professionalism and reliability. I’d highly recommend them to any other facility.”

With a Concierge team available by phone at 1-800-700-4797 and an app for those who are more tech-savvy, Onward works to meet our customers where they are by understanding their facility or residents needs and ensuring our service exceeds expectations. If you’re interested in learning about a facility partnership, reach out!