Brookdale Turns to Uber-Like Service to Transport Residents

The click of a button is connecting seniors with drivers who not only help them get from point A to point B, but provide a sense of companionship, as well.

Brookdale’s Woodside Terrace, in Redwood City, Calif., is piloting Lift Hero to offer residents transportation outside of its normal operating hours, when its own transportation services are unavailable.

Lift Hero gets seniors get to and from medical appointments in the San Francisco Bay Area. The recently founded transportation company is similar to ride-share programs like Uber and Lyft; however, clients can call or order a ride through Lift Hero’s website and — unlike Uber and Lyft — rides can be scheduled in advance and passengers can request a specific driver.

“Residents can use Lift Hero to provide individual services, such as a last minute physician appointment, an evening engagement, or an appointment that falls outside of our normal service,” says Sheila Garner, regional vice president for Brookdale’s west division.

Seniors and their caregivers independent of senior living communities use Lift Hero as well.

Unique to Lift Hero is the specialized training it offers drivers, many of whom are studying to be health care professionals and have a special interest in the elderly demographic, says Lift Hero CEO Jay Connolly. Drivers must know CPR and First Aid. The company operates under a door-through-door model, which encompasses drivers who accompany seniors from their residence to the vehicle, help carry bags and sit with clients at medical appointments.

“We interview every driver that comes through — that’s not the case for other ride sharing companies,” Connolly says. “The difference comes from the pool of people we’re working with. Many of our drivers are EMTs, nurses and medical students who are going to be serving this population for the rest of their careers. It’s a great experience for seniors.”

Like other ride sharing services, drivers provide their own vehicle. Lift Hero matches clients with drivers based on their needs and preferences, and passengers can also select drivers based on their profiles, which are posted on Lift Hero’s website. A mobile app is in the works for the service as well.

Lift Hero does more than offer seniors transportation — it promotes socialization through the relationships formed between driver and client.

“Our residents that have used the services of Lift Hero have developed a relationship with the drivers,” Garner says. “Because the resident can request the same driver, they have an opportunity to really get to know their chauffeur. Our residents have a company they can use that sees them as a person and not just a cab fare.”

The idea for the company came from Connolly’s experience of witnessing family members struggle to get his grandmother to and from medical appointments.

“Making medical appointments put a lot of pressure on my dad and aunt,” Connolly says. “It felt like a big burden.”

Also contributing to Lift Hero’s founding was Connolly’s desire to reduce social isolation for seniors.

“Social isolation is often caused by the inability to drive,” he says. “People get isolated, their health deteriorates as they age.”

Seniors who don’t drive make it out 60% less of the time based on that factor alone, and to 15% fewer medical appointments even though they tend to be sicker, according to the Surface Transportation Policy Project.

Payment can be set up ahead of time as seniors or their caregivers can create accounts online.

“Senior fraud is a huge issue so having more transparency creates a better experience for seniors,” he says.

Since launching more than two months ago, the company has provided hundreds of round-trip rides thus far. Lift Hero is also beginning to work with other senior living communities in the area and will eventually expand to serve the entire California state, Connolly says.

Riders are encouraged to rate their experience following the ride, and so far feedback has been positive.

“94% have rated us five out of five for their overall experience, and over 95% rated the likelihood of recommending us at five out of five,” he says.

Garner says the service enhances residents’ experience.

“We are finding bringing new technology or new services to our residents is enhancing the lives of those that wish to participate,” Garner says.

Brookdale will expand its partnership to its other communities as Lift Hero grows, she says.

Written by Cassandra Dowell