Can Improving Access to Transportation Increase Well-Being in Older Adults?

Social interactions help people maintain resilience and feel empowered. But lack of affordable, accessible transportation can limit those interactions, as well as the ability to get to doctors’ appointments and to the grocery store — all of which has a negative impact on health.

In examining the links between transportation and isolation, AARP Foundation, USC Center for Body Computing (USC) and UnitedHealthcare initiated a study designed to test how no-cost on-demand transportation may support social connectedness and participation in follow-up medical appointments among a group of approximately 150 Los Angeles seniors. As part of a broader collaboration between AARP Foundation and UnitedHealthcare to address the needs of seniors, the Foundation has provided a $1 million grant to USC to conduct the study.

Study participants are being offered cost-free rides to both medical and non-medical destinations for three months, delivered through on-demand ride service Lyft. The participants wear an activity tracker on their wrist and keep a written daily log of their various social activities. Recognizing that older adults have varying levels of comfort with using smartphones and apps, we offer two methods to access rides:

  • Participants can request rides via the Lyft app and receive training in using a ride-sharing app.
  • Participants who are unable or unwilling to use the app can call to schedule rides via a telephone concierge platform.

USC researchers are tracking, measuring and analyzing the program’s impact on health, overall satisfaction and well-being, compliance with follow-up medical appointments and participation in social activities.

The resulting data, outcomes, lessons learned and partnerships will help us better understand how transportation affects social connectedness, health and participation in follow-up medical appointments.