Part of the Transforming Life as We Age Special Report
(This article appeared previously on Tech50plus.com.)
The older we — and our parents — get, the harder it is to get from point A to point B. That’s why so many older adults have turned to ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. But what about those who don’t have a smartphone or the capacity to use those car services? Justin Boogaard has a solution.
Boogaard had been living with his grandmother and had been her driver. But when he moved out, his grandmother lost her rides. She wasn’t comfortable with a smartphone, so she was pretty much stuck. Until they came up with idea for GoGoGrandparent, which you can access from a landline or smartphone with the touch of a button; it works with existing ride-sharing companies to find drivers and rides that are appropriate for older riders.
We interviewed Boogaard about how it works:
Tech50Plus: Is it true that many older adults aren’t comfortable with smartphones?
I lived with my grandma for three years and when I was moving out I realized she didn’t do any driving at night, which I had been doing while living with her.
— Justin Boogaard, GoGoGrandparent creator
Justin Boogaard: We find that about 30 percent of our callers do use smartphones in addition to GoGoGrandparent. They rely on GoGoGrandparent because Uber isn’t designed to work with a caller that doesn’t necessarily have the wherewithal to be able to contact the driver or to walk down the street to meet the driver. [Those services] rely more on the passenger to hold up their end of getting to the car. For 85-year-old folks, sometimes that’s just not something that works. GoGoGrandparent is able to get in there. We communicate that to the driver. We oversee the ride. And we make sure that it goes off without a hitch successfully every time.
How did you come up with the idea for GoGoGrandparent?
It wasn’t my idea; it was my grandma’s. I lived with my grandma for three years and when I was moving out I realized she didn’t do any driving at night, which I had been doing while living with her. I hadn’t even thought that she might be asking me to drive because she was afraid of driving, I thought that she just preferred other people driving. I realized she might not be comfortable going to the movie theater or getting dinner with her friends if I leave. Feeling a little guilty for leaving, I made GoGoGrandparent for her.
It wasn’t even really a business, it was just sort of a way for her to be able to get around independently. Then she gave it to her friends and then word got out in her bridge club and then pretty soon it was growing across the United States and then that’s when we turned into a business.
When did you get this rolling?
She took her first ride on Jan. 4, 2016, and I would say that it got rolling probably March of 2016 once her bridge club started using it.
Let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of how GoGoGrandparent works.
Well, there’s the nuts and bolts from the perspective of the older adult, then there’s the nuts and bolts from the perspective of the loved one and then there’s the perspective of what we’re doing on our end.
The simplest one is the older adult. Most of our callers are over the age of 75. It’s incredibly simple. They can call from a cell phone or a land line. If they’re at their home, they press 1 and that tells us that they want a car sent to their home. If they’re at the location where we dropped them off last they press 2 and then that tells us that they want a car sent there. If they’re anywhere else they would press 0 and speak with an operator..
So it’s really simple for them. They just call the number, press a digit, if they need to they can speak to an operator but most of the time they don’t. We’ll also call them when the driver is about 3 minutes away so that they can start heading outside. After the trip, they get an email, or if they don’t have an email they get a phone call, a voicemail on their landline, with how much the total trip came out to be. It’s all just built into the technology that they use and have been using for decades.
Family members get a little bit more. They can come in and set up a GoGoGrandparent account for their older loved one. They can customize the account with instructions based on the needs of their loved one, so if there’s a walker, if they have a foldable wheelchair, if they prefer to get picked up on the side of their home that only has one step instead of two steps.
The family member or caregiver gets notified as the trip is in progress. We don’t have a smartphone app for them but we do text adult children when a trip has been requested, when it’s in progress, and where it ends. They can communicate with the driver at any time, they get the driver’s name and license plate. We’re going to be building out more services for the adult child but that’s where we are right now.
How do you deal with the special needs of your clients?
When a request comes in, if it’s an automatic request, we’ll automatically dispatch the driver to the correct location. But then on top of that, we have a list of drivers that we do not work with because for whatever reason they just weren’t comfortable driving an older adult. No problem, there’s thousands of drivers, so we’ll just find another one. We communicate with the driver, we ensure that they understand the instruction and then if there are any custom instructions that they get that, too.
This does two things: 1) the rider knows exactly what’s about to happen and 2) if they’re nervous or uncomfortable they can cancel and we’ll find another driver that is better suited.
The family member can communicate to the driver to let the driver know the rider is in front of the store, they have groceries, they’re going to need some help with those, are you comfortable with that? So for the older adult, all they did was call, press 1, and magic happens. Well actually in this case press 3 because they’re at another location, magic happens, driver shows up, driver’s happy, gives them a ride back, everything goes off without a hitch.
Which services does GoGoGrandparent work with?
We’re working with Uber and Lyft and just added See Jane Go, which is an all-women service, so women driving women.
What’s the cost?
Callers are getting the customized experience overseen by a full-time operator that’s available 24/7 for just 19 cents a minute while they’re in the car. So it usually comes out to be an extra dollar or two more per ride. Our customers automatically get a receipt from us that includes both the car service and our charge but laid out so they can see what each part cost.
Where does your service operate around the country?
We’re available everywhere. We have callers from 47 states and three provinces in Canada.
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