Solon’s senior citizens are enjoying the ease of an Uber ride.

In an effort to provide another form of transportation for Solon’s seniors and to reduce transportation costs, the Solon Senior Center in recent months completed a trial utilizing Uber Health with a select group of riders.

Director of Senior Services Jill Frankel said they concluded that those who were able to utilize Uber Health found the service to meet or exceed their expectations, and there was also a greater than 105-percent savings in out-of-town transportation costs for the same number of trips.

“Uber Health is a service line of Uber in which an organization schedules their riders’ trips through an Uber portal and costs are billed directly to the organization,” Ms. Frankel said. “The organization can completely monitor the trip with full visibility from driver acceptance, live while the ride is in progress, through completion.”

Ms. Frankel said that, prior to using Uber Health, anyone who wished for transportation outside the City of Solon for things such as medical appointments or socialization, would utilize the services of Senior Transportation Connection. In this case, they would pay $4 per ride and the city would pay $34 per ride.

The city budgeted about $75,000 last year for this service.

They have been offering both in town and out of town transportation for close to 20 years, using Senior Transportation Connection about five years ago.

They turned to this option, Ms. Frankel said, because Senior Transpiration Connection could provide expanded hours and drive multiple people at once.

“We were not able to do that,” Ms. Frankel said.

In the case of Uber, the city pays the Uber ride and is able to schedule and monitor the rides and in turn will bill the users the $4. With Uber Health, riders can utilize flexibility ride scheduling, initiated by the rider. The trip costs for Uber Health riders will be billed by the city on a monthly basis, instead of directly paying the service like they do with Senior Transportation Connection.

Ms. Frankel noted that the Uber ride is not a program every senior can use. That is because those with mobility needs or any difficulty with cognition cannot utilize it. In addition, those using Uber must have a cell phone that accepts texts. It does not necessarily need to be a smartphone, Ms. Frankel noted, but one that they can accept texts so they know when the car is arriving for them.

Uber Health also provides the ability of an “on demand ride,” meaning that if someone is at the doctor’s office, they can request their ride as soon as they are done instead of them having to guess when they might be done.

“What we found is that people really enjoyed the independence and dignity provided by Uber,” Ms. Frankel said. “Some started riding more because it was so easy and they enjoyed it so much.”

That being said, Ms. Frankel said it is important to note that Senior Transportation Connection provides great service for those who need that type of service. They also expanded what the city was able to do when they provided it on their own.

Participants interested in utilizing Uber Health will be required to have a transportation consultation with social worker Yvette Hasan at the center. Those interested can call (440) 349-6363. Once approved, riders will have the option of service providers each and every time they ride.

“Providing transportation services is an investment in both our seniors and the community,” Ms. Frankel said. “They are able to stay healthier both mentally and physically and remain engaged.”

For the last decade, Sue Reid has covered the government, business climate and residents of Solon. A Times reporter for 22 years, Ms. Reid has earned commendations from the Ohio Newspaper Association and Cleveland Press Association.

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