Uber and Lyft: Your New Chauffeur? By: Melissa Callens

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Throughout the aging process specific daily tasks become more difficult and sometimes impossible to continue. One of these daily tasks includes driving and transportation which becomes more difficult with aging due to many health complications that are common with aging. As people age their eyesight, coordination, and motor skills typically tend to decrease causing transportation to be difficult. These tend to include the development of cataracts or other eye impairments, motor coordination declining, mobility problems and much more that many times causes older adults to not want to drive or not be able to drive. This many times leads to family members and friends providing transportation for the older adult but with ride service apps like Uber and Lyft there may no longer be a need for the reliance of others for transportation.

Both Uber and Lyft are apps which are downloadable on a smart phone. Both of these products offer transportation and will pick you up where you are and drop you off at your destination of choice. These two apps are similar to a taxi service but different sized vehicles can be selected and ordered and all are paid for from your smart phone in the app. Both of these apps are free to download on any smartphone but cost money when paying for a ride. Both are very easy to sign up for and only ask for an e-mail, phone number, name, and credit card information. Although both have the same general concept and ideas there are some differences as well. One main difference is that Uber is a much more popular well known company when compared to Lyft, which, when there is a high demand for transportation Uber tends to not raise their prices as much as Lyft does and Uber warns the customer ahead of time that the price is currently raised. Both Uber and Lyft have about the same original starting price of two dollars per mile but the main difference between the two is that Uber does a better job of showing the customer upfront what price they will be paying whereas Lyft does not which is a common complaint (Isaac, 2017). According to Isaac (2017), due to Uber being larger it also has more coverage area and is in 58 countries and 300 cities worldwide whereas Lyft is only in 65 cities in the United States. Knowing which company is in the older adult’s area would be necessary but these products would provide many benefits to older adults.

These two apps could be extremely helpful for aging adults by potentially creating a safer driving environment for older adults. According to Wiese and Wolff (2016), there is a high crash rate among older adults due to various cognitive skills needed in driving such as executive function, attention, and cognitive flexibility declining in older age. Research conducted by Lodha et. al (2016), explored whether older adults exhibit impaired driving as a consequence of declines in motor control or strength. In this study there was a total of 28 participants 12 of which had an average age of 23 and 16 of which had an average age of 74 and all participants were current drivers who were reported to be healthy. All participants did simple tasks during an experimental session to determine motor control variability and reactive driving performance including contractions of the ankle, reactive driving tasks and many other tasks. The result of this study indicated that driving performance was 30% more impaired in older adults compared to younger adults and gas pedal error, premotor response time, and brake pedal error were all significantly greater in older adults (Lodha et. al, 2016). By using the transportation apps like Uber and Lyft these driving errors made by older adults could be reduced creating a safer driving environment for the older adult.

Not only would older adults benefit from these apps on a safety level but these apps could help with overall well-being of older adults and get them out of their house more often creating more positive moods. These transportation apps could highly benefit nursing homes because older adults who were in the right mental state could take an Uber or Lyft to visit family nearby, go somewhere for an activity like golfing or bowling, or just go to the grocery store. This could create more positive emotions and feelings about being in a nursing home and be an easier adjustment for the older adults entering a nursing or care home. These apps could also simply boost emotions and feelings of older adults because it could get them out of the house instead of feeling stuck at home with nothing to do. Many older adults do not feel independent due to their inability to drive many of the time (Wiese et al, 2016). Uber and Lyft give older adults the ability to be independent and come and go whenever they please instead of having to schedule times with family or friends to drive them from place to place. With older adults feeling more self-dependent and being more free to do activities when they please depression rates could go down in older adults. When cognitive abilities start to decline older adults tend to get more depressed which is related to even faster cognitive decline (Donovan et al., 2017). Research conducted by Okura et. al (2017), explored the relationship of participating in community activities with cognitive impairment and depressive mood. In this study questionnaires were sent to 5401 older adults with a mean age of 76 years old and a response rate of 94.3%. These questionnaires addressed physical fitness, memory, mood and community activities. The result of this study indicated that higher community activities including volunteer activities, visiting friends, pursuing hobbies and doing daily chores was associated with lower depressive mood and lower community activities or none at all was associated with higher depressive mood (Okura et. al, 2017). By using transportation apps like Uber and Lyft older adults could get out of the house more often to do community activities like the ones in this study which benefits the older adults because they are much more independent and do not need to feel reliant on family and friends. It could also be beneficial for nursing homes and families who have a filial obligation because it would alleviate the pressure of driving the older adult around.

Although these products could be highly beneficial to older adults, it may not be known by older adults because these companies have mainly young adult customers due to the company’s locations being in popular more busy cities. Another reason these products may not be known by older adults is that only 42% of adults older than 65 in the United States have a smartphone (Wiese et al, 2016). Due to the technology gap these transportation apps are more often used by younger adults but with the technology gap slowly disappearing, these transportation apps could eventually be used by a greater number of older adults who can no longer drive or who do not want to drive. These products are aimed specifically toward younger adults but there are many ways Uber and Lyft could optimize their product for seniors. One way these products could be optimized is by providing more handicapped available cars that have wheelchair access or other accommodations for handicapped individuals. By adding this accommodation, these transportation apps could gain a greater number of older adults using their car services. This accommodation would also benefit nursing homes if they chose to use Uber’s or Lyft’s services. Another way Uber and Lyft could optimize their product for seniors is by creating a more user friendly app for older adults. One complaint that Uber and Lyft get often is that prices and information is not always clear and for older adults it is necessary to have an app that gives adequate information.

Transportation apps including Uber and Lyft are promising in the older adult cohort and could be highly beneficial for overall driving safety and promoting more community activities to boost overall mood of older adults. Although these apps would create many benefits for older adults there are some pieces that could be improved to optimize the product for seniors.

 

 

References

Donovan, N. J., Wu, Q., Rentz, D. M., Sperling, R. A., Marshall, G. A., & Glymour, M. M.          (2017). Loneliness, depression and cognitive function in older U.S. adults. International     Journal Of Geriatric Psychiatry, 32(5), 564-573. doi:10.1002/gps.4495

Isaac, M. (2017). Uber Discloses Robust Financial Figures. New York Times. p. B6.

Lodha, N., Moon, H., Changki, K., Onushko, T., Christou, E. A., & Kim, C. (2016). Motor           Output Variability Impairs Driving Ability in Older Adults. Journals Of Gerontology         Series A:Biological Sciences & Medical Sciences, 71(12), 1676-1681.          doi:10.1093/gerona/glw013

Okura, M., Ogita, M., Yamamoto, M., Nakai, T., Numata, T., & Arai, H. (2017). The         relationship of community activities with cognitive impairment and depressive mood        independent of mobility disorder in Japanese older adults. Archives Of Gerontology &         Geriatrics, 7054-61. doi:10.1016/j.archger.2016.12.010

Wiese, L. K., & Wolff, L. (2016). Supporting Safety in the Older Adult Driver: A Public Health     Nursing Opportunity. Public Health Nursing, 33(5), 460-471. doi:10.1111/phn.12274

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