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