The Longevity

SilverRide Offers Mobility Solutions for Bay Area’s Aging, Disabled

San Francisco-based SilverRide was founded in 2007, with a mission to meet the transportation needs of older adults with ambulatory or other limitations.

“When you get a ride from us, it’s a lot more than a ride,” said Jeff Maltz, who launched SilverRide in 2007 after hearing about older adults facing transportation problems. 

Drivers for SilverRide undergo background checks and random drug testing, but they also get training in transporting people with special needs of all kinds, physical and cognitive.

“The truth is, it’s a little easier to help someone in a wheelchair,” Maltz said. “If you’re helping somebody with a cane or walker, there’s a higher risk of fall.” SilverRide calls the service “door-through-door.” Drivers don’t pull up to the curb and wait for the passenger to hop in. Instead they provide a safe escort from indoors to the car and back indoors again at the destination.

Drivers, who get liability insurance coverage from SilverRide, also shuttle customers to and from medical procedures that involve anesthesia, where doctors recommend against patients driving themselves.

SilverRide staff additionally develop the profile of each rider when they sign up, allowing for more individualized service.

[For example, the] company… gathers information about whether there are steps outside clients’ homes, how to reach their emergency contacts, how often a client likes to go out and where he or she likes to go. The company promises to keep those details and preferences on file and confidential.

…For an additional fee, SilverRide drivers will stay with clients who can’t or don’t want to be on their own, accompanying them to games, shows and other events. Those costs range from $45 to $85 an hour. The company says its drivers spend 70 percent of their time in that capacity.

Like most transportation services designed for older adults, SilverRide does not presume smartphone usage.

Riders can summon SilverRide with a phone call or by email, convenient options for those who aren’t adept with smartphones. “We have a [smartphone] app,” Maltz said. “Zero people use it.”

Cities and States across the country are confronting the transportation needs of their aging populations, and many partnerships with startups–or more established companies like Uber or Lyft–are springing up.

“There are lots of models that have aspects of what is offered in SilverRide,” said Virginia Rize, co-director of the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center. “I think we’re in a period where there is tremendous development and enhancement of transportation options.”

The reason for this wave of developments nationally is a growing need that will be challenging to meet. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires local governments to provide rides for anyone who can’t use ordinary public transportation. Often, what’s provided are minibuses that carry multiple people, each to a different destination, while others ride along waiting for their stops. It can be a slow and inconvenient way to get around. In addition, these services are struggling to stretch their capacity for an aging population.

SilverRide hopes to expand into other markets to meet some of this growing demand.

[Founder Maltz] believes accessible transportation can translate into better health for aging people by enabling them to socialize and take part in activities they would otherwise miss. He gave an example by telling a story.

SilverRide got a call from someone whose uncle had been told he had two weeks to live, Maltz said. The uncle wanted to visit a gay bar one more time before he died. After making sure the man was OK to travel, SilverRide drove him to the bar and handed him off safely to the bartender.

“On the way back, the guy asked if we could take him again the next day. We told him we’d take him as many times as he wanted to go,” Maltz recalled. “The guy wound up going to gay bars three to five times a week — for the next five years.”