Now You Can Use Uber Without a Smartphone


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Justin Boogaard had been living with his grandma and serving as her driver whenever she needed a ride. But after three years, he moved out and she lost her rides. She wasn’t comfortable with her smartphone, so she couldn’t use the app–based ride-share services like Uber that many seniors use, leaving her pretty much stuck — until Boogaard created GoGoGrandparent, a service that lets you call a ride on-demand from Uber or Lyft using a landline or cellphone.

GoGoGrandparent acts as an intermediary between the ride-sharing service and the person who needs a ride, and works for both legs of a return trip as long as you have some type of cellphone. The company has spawned copies, including ArriveRides, which launched in January 2017. But the idea, Boogaard says, was originally his grandmother’s.

GoGoGrandparent users pay an additional 19 cents per minute — around $2 per ride — for the service, which is available in all 50 states and three Canadian provinces.

Gary Kaye at Tech 50+ sat down for a chat with Boogaard to find out how GoGoGrandparent works.

Many seniors aren’t comfortable with smartphones — is that the main reason for your existence?

We find that about 30 percent of our callers do have smartphones, but they rely on GoGoGrandparent because the way that Uber and Lyft are set up, there’s more to it than just having a smartphone. These apps rely more on the passenger to hold up their end of contacting the driver or walking down the street to get to the car, and for 85-year-old folk that just might not work. So GoGoGrandparent is able to communicate with the driver, we oversee the ride, and we make sure that it goes off without a hitch successfully every time. So, we do have a lot of folks that have smartphones, 

How did you come up with the idea for GoGoGrandparent?

It was my grandmother’s idea. I lived with her 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 she just preferred other people driving. I realized she might not be comfortable going to the movie theater or getting dinner with her friends. Feeling a little guilty for leaving, I made GoGoGrandparent for her. It wasn’t even really a business, it was just a way for her to be able to get around independently. But 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 that’s when we turned it into a business. 

Let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of how GoGoGrandparent works.

Most of our callers are over the age of 75. We just signed up our first 100-year-old two weeks ago and we’re very excited about having them on board. Callers can use a cellphone or land line. If they’re at 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 that tells us that they want a car sent there. And if they’re anywhere else they press 0 and speak with our operator, and we tell them how many minutes until the driver arrives. So it’s really simple. We’ll also call when the driver is about three minutes away so 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, with how much the total trip came out to be. 

If there are family members, they 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. 

Which services do you work with?

We’re working with Uber and Lyft and just added See Jane Go, which is an all-women service — women driving women.

I’ve used both Uber and Lyft, and sometimes they want you to walk to a particular pickup point that may not be easy for a caller to reach. How do you deal with that? 

Sometimes Uber and Lyft require their passenger to do that extra work and it doesn’t work, and so that’s what we do on our end. We communicate with the driver, ensure that they understand the instruction and then, if there are any custom instructions, that they get that too. And this does two things: one, the rider knows exactly what’s about to happen, and two if they’re nervous or uncomfortable they can cancel and we’ll find another driver who is better suited.When a request comes in, if it’s an automatic request, we’ll automatically dispatch a driver to the correct location. 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.

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 press 1, and magic happens. 

Visit GoGoGrandparent

A version of this article, “GoGoGrandparent: Get Uber and Lyft Without a Smartphone,” was first published at Tech50+


31 responses to “Now You Can Use Uber Without a Smartphone

  1. Not a comment but a question: Perhaps I was mistaken when I called. I always thought Uber/Lyft could be called for a single ride or one time use, like a taxi. But I was surprised to find that I had to sign up , pay to register and would have a monthly fee. Is that the case always? I asked if registering meant a subscription and was told there was no choice. I can drive regularly, but this was for a yearly eye exam and NJ law says both eyes have to be dilated. So for me this is a once a year usage. Apparently I can not use the service unless I sign up for the monthly fee?

  2. Not a comment but a question: Perhaps I was mistaken when I called. I always thought Uber/Lyft could be called or a single ride or one time use, like a taxi. But I was surprised to find that I had to sign up , pay to register and would have a monthly fee. Is that the case always? I asked if registering meant a subscription and was told there was no choice. I can drive regularly, but this was for a yearly eye exam where I NJ law says both eyes have to be dilated. So for me this is a once a year usage. Apparently I can not use the service unless I sign up for the monthly fee?

  3. Make it as simple as learning ABC’s for me. I had never heard the words uber, lyft, gogograndparent until now. Please email me at the email below and explain to me step by step: how much does it cost, are all cars comfortable, do I tip, does a simple cell phone work, is there a lease of some kind, do we pay the driver or do we pay the company, does it cost extra for a wheel chair or walker, how is Nashville set up for such as this, do you charge according to the zip code, is the service available in Gallatin and Hendersonville in Tennessee, does my caretaker get to ride free?


  4. I tried signing myself up under an alias. I have received death threats over the past couple of years. As a fall back service to get me somewhere I like to have some available to me. Not needing a smartphone to hail an Uber or Lyft driver seemed like a cool feature. Even better were the options to add destinations for assignment to my numerical keypad. So long as I can remember what location is associated with a given number.

    I thought I was cleared when I had to make a phone call for verification as a final step. When I told my reasons for using an alias they made a note of it and said my account was activated. A few moments after hanging up I got a call from them. When I answered nobody would speak. I said “hello” three times. After that I hung up. Again they called a half minute later. I answered with “hello” and my alias name was asked for. I asked who is calling and was told that aliases are not allowed. They insisted I had to send them a picture of my driver’s license before they could really activate my account. I politely informed the fellow that is none of their business and I will not be sending it to them. When I asked if I simply change my name on the account to my actual name I was again to they could not activate my account. We hung up on good terms.

    I tried editing my account information on to see my number had been marked with a red rectangle. In an instant I had been blacklisted all because I didn’t want my travels to be known to whomever has been harassing me. I read in their FAQs that their service is not only for the elderly. And that family members can set up accounts for others to use. Following that rule I made an account for a fictional name with myself as the benefactor. Apparently what they say is allowed really isn’t. Something to consider in regards to truth in advertising. I have since removed them from my digital phone book, caller ID, and opted out of their text messages.

  5. I am sorry to learn that mine is not the only dismaying experience with GoGoGrandparent. I have used them for almost a month now, becoming more and more disappointed at the lack of caring by the dispatchers I have talked to, as well as being false advertising for “caring about seniors.” Really? Not as far as I’ve seen, and I am about ready to go straight to lyft. I have been with GoGo for a month, and nothing is improving; it is actually worsening. The dispatchers don’t listen or pay attention to me, when I tell them my pickup home address, I have to repeat it three times because the dispatcher is interrupting me continually.

    But it doesn’t matter, they get my pickup address from home wrongly, many times, and then, they get my destination address wrong too! And then they charge me extra for the 2 wxtra miles they tack on through THEIR mistake.

    I ride with GoGo three days a week, to dialysis; I HAVE to go. There is no excuse for this. Thye should know my home address AND my destination address by now. Yet they fail to get either of them correct more than half the time.

    I also have to explain to the dispatcher, every single time, that I live on the 3rd floor of my building, and that you have to navigate a certain way to be in front of that building. I am interrupted continually AGAIN. And then they tell me “your driver will arrive in five minutes”. This makes me anxious, as I live on the 3rd floor of my building in our retirement community, it’s gated, and I live at the end of the hall from the elevator–at the middle. And that I use a walker, and it takes me a little bit to get down there, and outside, and down the sidewalk to the gate.

    Again, I am frequently interrupted, and then…the best word I can think of as more descriptive is, “humored”. As in, this young person humored me. repeating back their notes to me. But they don’t give you the 15 minutes for the driver to arrive, which stresses me out considerably more. I can’t hurry; I have a prosthetic leg and it’s new.

    Almost all of the drivers–who have been with Lyft, surely not a coincidence–have been kind, courteous, and gentlemanly, and strong. For that, I am thankful. However, one of the first drivers looked at his phone the entire time he drove, and we swerved all over the road. He also did not speak to me beyond complaining that my walker was hard to fold up–which it’sn’t. No one else had a problem. But the texting and driving,,,and the utter silence, in his cigarette smoke filled car, did not give me peace of mind.

    Frankly, I prayed the whole time I was in his car, and thankfully, we did arrive at dialysis safely. Then he was suddenly very friendly; I deduced he was just in this for the money. I I didn’t bother to respond. did write to
    GoGo and I received a less-than-satisfactory response when I urged the company to not have this driver work for them in future. “We’re sorry this experience happened, blah blah blah, and we will try to make sure he doesn’t drive you anymore… Best.”

    Yes, but what about other people whose lives he endangers? What about them?? I am a young senior, almost 60. What if it were someone who’s 75 or 80? Or older? What then??

    So this is one very unhappy camper and one extremely disillusioned senior who is just about done with GoGo! I thought it would be the ideal solution for me, but instead, it has turned out to be the very opposite of “ideal”/.

    I wrote to the company here in my city a little while ago, (which I have now done many times, with erratic responses–and with lukewarm ones) and said to them all I have detailed here–and a bit more. I’ve asked them if they’re going to take steps to change, or not, and to at least let me know one way or another.

    I have paid extra $ to ride with them, and it’s been just a joke…a joke that isn’t funny at all! :(


    Bron Gibson

    1. Part of the blame goes to you as well. You’ve been with the company for one month. Riding three times weekly. Surely you’ve figured out to be within five minutes of the pickup location when you are calling. As for the driver of the smoke filled car you should have used whatever InterNet service you have to find the driving service that employed that person and take it up with them. Of course there is no guarantee they will be fired or suspended on the complaint of presumably a single person. If you had concrete proof such as a video recording then there would be greater cause for action. But then who expects a driver to allegedly act like that?

    2. Hi Bron,

      I am sorry you had to go through that. I really don’t like seniors feeling unsafe. What part of the country do you live?
      I have a senior transportation service called Zoom rides for seniors in
      New Jersey and I always meet the seniors in person before I drive them anywhere so they can
      be comfortable and feel safe.

      Please look up my service if you have a computer.
      Good Luck,

  6. Perhaps I am missing something. I printed out this article because I need and wish to utilize Uber but do not have a smart phone. Nowhere in the article do I find how to do that. It seems to be just talking about it being possible and people giving their experiences. Where is how I start a Uber account and call withOUT a smartphone?

  7. Hi, I’m only 57 and I do have a smartphone. The reason I would prefer to use your service as a buffer is because android users are still required to grant uber and lyft full access to everything -and I mean EVERYTHING in our smartphones. That is Bizarro World invasion of privacy! I have opted so far to walk in freezing cold and pouring rain down treacherous suburban backroads over giving that much personal information to a company that clearly doesn’t need it! As for taxicab companies…there are many suburbs that don’t have any nearby. So for those of us who can’t afford to buy a reliable car, ride share companies and walking are our only options. I’m so glad to know your company exists!

    Christina P.

    1. Your concern regarding using an Android phone with ride services is spot on.
      I’m not a grandparent so far as I know either :) This gogo product seems interesting.

      Will look more at this product offer and review pricing somewhere to see what the actual costs turn out to be over paying uber direct -which I won’t be doing anyway.

  8. I tried GOGO Grandparentand thought it would be the answer I was so looking for. My Mother is 90. I am the only one in town and thus her wheels. I registered everything online . I requested she might need help with car doors. We gave it a trial run yesterday with me following. The driver came immediately. She just pulled up in driveway. She did not,open a very heavy door and I had to. She rolled down window and asked where we were going . It was just to Target ..maybe 2-3 miles Mom said she was pleasant. But pulled up at front door.i watched Mom struggle with door. I thought I was to get a text with her pickup and arrival. My mother is not good with her cell phone. I knew this would be an issue if had to make a return ride… Help..want this to work..but disappointed with first experience.

  9. Thank you, Justin, for reading and responding. I am still hoping you ca find a way to service retirement communities like ours, that are NOT one-building high-rises.

    Please do let me know if you have added enough more description to my name, so your drivers can find me, And any other residents here when I have a good enough experience to recommend you.

    Still hopeful,

    Mary Lou Jacoby

  10. I was so excited to learn of GoGoGrandparent, as I live in a Retirement Community where many of us cannot drive to Doctor’s Appointments. But I’ve had 3 disappointing trips, waiting outside 45 min. to 1 hour to get home ! Once, given 3 different color cars & driver names; then 2 different ones. I had given the nurse MY name & telephone (land line) to use, and waited in the office til she was told car & driver info, then left to wait. After 45 min I finally asked a person nearby to use their cell phone, give my name & address-where-I’d-been-left…they were given a second car & driver name, (a Lyft driver) who got me home. GGG had promised to give me the driver’s phone, earlier, but none answered!
    This is a MUCH NEEDED service for the growing # of aging seniors , late 80’s and into 90’s in the USA WHO DO NOT HAVE OR WANT CELL PHONES ! Why doesn’t GGG devise a protocol for a series of steps to USE landlines—which EVERY DR.’S OFFICE HAS, to get us home ? ? I’m trying to help you guys get more business from all these retirement centers that aren’t big apartment buildings!
    Also, I’m still working with GGG to get them to hear my feedback that, for MANY Retirement Communities like mine (Westminster Gardens, one) a Be. Group there needs to be a description ON FILE WITH MY NÅME ÅND PHONE#, that has MORE of an address than “1420 Santo Domingo” (our street entrance, which takes up the entire block of single bungalows)that gives the UNIT (small house) number, like ours 237, within that community, AND—(according to the feedback from one returning-me driver) a description of how to locate it ! I’ve talked to several “O” operators about this, but the helpful feedback doesn’t seem to go anywhere.
    Please, somebody somewhere in Duarte area GGG, READ THIS !
    Still hopeful to be able to recommend you ! Mary Lou Jacoby [address and email removed by editor]

    1. Hello Ms. Jacoby,

      I was deeply troubled to hear about your poor experience. This is not the GoGoGrandparent experience so many folks have come to love. Many of our callers do use landline’s, doctor’s office phones, nail salon lines, even phones at the grocery store to get a ride without any trouble.

      I was pleased to find that your poor experience was already flagged by our supervising staff and that they’ve been in contact with you as early as Monday. I expect a swift and lasting resolution for the trouble you’ve experienced. Should anything come up in the future, I’d encourage you to please email or me personally at

      Thank you for using GoGoGrandparent,


      1. Hi beiland,
        You don’t have to contact Uber or Lyft directly. You can specify which one you prefer when you order a ride with GoGoGrandparent, which you can do by calling (855) 464 – 6872.

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