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Now You Can Use Uber Without a Smartphone

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+

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19 comments
  • Kit Woodhouse
    REPLY

    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?

  • Christina P.
    REPLY

    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.

  • Karen
    REPLY

    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.

  • Mary Lou Jacoby
    REPLY

    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

  • Mary Lou Jacoby at Westminster Gardens (above address)
    REPLY

    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]

    • Justin Boogaard
      REPLY

      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 support@gogograndparent.com or me personally at justin@gogograndparent.com.

      Thank you for using GoGoGrandparent,

      Justin

  • jackie
    REPLY

    After the stunt Uber pulled in NYC during the taxi strike against Trump immigration policy, Id advise us all to try Lyft instead.

        • Divya
          REPLY

          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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