With the Freedom in Motion Program, senior citizens in Alachua County will be able to request free rides through Uber with a few taps on their smartphone. The program is similar to Uber, but with a few enhancements created to tailor it to seniors’ needs.
Freedom in Motion started as a conversation between ElderCare of Alachua County staff and former Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy. Despite the existing public transit system, a “one-size-fits-all” approach was not very helpful to seniors in the area, said ElderCare Director Anthony Clarizio. “Mayor Braddy recognized that there was a huge need for transportation for older adults,” Clarizio said.
The program makes it possible for seniors to get easy access to rides without the need to pay out of pocket. Each ride is funded by the city and a portion of each senior’s copay. Low income seniors do not have to supply funds from a copayment.
The program ensures that no barriers will exist for seniors who need transportation in the city. If seniors do not have a smartphone to use the Uber app, the city of Gainesville will provide them with one. Seniors using the service will see the app the same way they would on any other device. The only formatting difference will be the payment method. While traditional Uber users would need to input their credit card number, the payment method for seniors will say “Freedom in Motion,” so that the cost of the ride will automatically be applied to the city funds and copay if applicable.
“I really have to applaud the city of Gainesville,” Clarizio said. With this program, “seniors can see that the city of Gainesville really cares about their needs.”
ElderCare is a grant-and-donation-funded agency equipped with a senior recreation facility. The organization provides activities and services intended to serve local seniors’ needs and enhance their lives. Braddy had previously worked with Uber and approached Clarizio with the thought of adapting the service to suit the demand for senior transportation in the area, Clarizio explained. Clarizio then helped draft a blueprint of the program, which Braddy presented to Uber employees in Silicon Valley.
Uber and the city of Gainesville tested the program last spring through September 2016. The program was postponed briefly after this experimental period so that officials could evaluate it for efficiency and use. During this evaluation, the city found that the program met a large demand and decided to include it in the city budget for 2017. The city of Gainesville has designated about $40,000 to fund the program. Current Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe is also extremely supportive of the program, Clarizio said.
Kevin Ramirez, the senior recreation center manager at ElderCare, enrolls seniors in the program to ensure that they will able to request rides efficiently and safely.
“I meet with the seniors one-on-one and get them set up with the program to make sure it works,” he said.Seniors interested in the program can contact the ElderCare of Alachua County facility for more resources and information