SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — SOMA Two Towns for All Ages has extended the Gogo Grandparent pilot car service program through July, giving a new option to senior citizens in South Orange and Maplewood looking for a ride. The program helps seniors who don’t use smartphones to access Uber or Lyft, ridesharing services that can sometimes travel farther than public transportation. The Two Towns program is offering up to four rides of $10 each during the month of July.
“This connects people without a smartphone to Uber and Lyft,” Cathy Rowe, the Two Towns coordinator, said in a phone interview with the News-Record on July 6. “There’s senior buses in both towns, but they don’t run on the weekends and evenings.”
To take advantage of the Gogo Grandparent program, seniors older than 65 set up an account by calling 855-464-6872 or going to www.gogograndparent.com/soma and putting a credit or debit card on the account. When the account is set up, seniors can make a phone call to set up a ride — rather than using a smartphone app — and a car will pick them up and take them to their destination. If a ride exceeds $10, the remaining balance will be charged to the user’s account.
“We wanted people to be able to go farther,” Rowe said. “And this way they can go out and support the local businesses here. Once they figured it out, they liked it. It’s not a taxi service, it’s Uber and Lyft. It’s expanded the range of where they can go.”
Rowe said the program benefits seniors who no longer drive, and eliminates their need to rely on family members or friends’ schedules for rides to the grocery store or doctor appointments. The positive response to the program is the main reason it has been extended through July.
“I’ve been very happy with it,” South Orange resident Sam Convissor said in a phone interview with the News-Record on July 7. He used Gogo Grandparent to get a ride home from Newark Penn Station. “I wasn’t aware of Uber or Lyft at the time. They came and picked me up and I got home no problem.”
Convissor said that the service also sent text messages to his daughters telling them that he had arrived home.
“I thought that was nice. I laughed about it because it’s my kids,” he joked. “But that was helpful.
“I would use it in the future, I had no problem,” Convissor said. “Local transportation isn’t terribly reliable. I think it’s terrific and it’s a good thing to introduce to people. There’s people who don’t drive anymore, for whatever reason, so this is helpful.”
Maplewood resident Ellie Lada also had a positive experience with Gogo Grandparent, using it several times to get to and from the Maplewood Train Station. She decided to try it after other Maplewood seniors recommended it.
“I was having a houseguest visiting me from Indiana who had never been to New York City and I wanted Gogo Grandparent to take us to the Maplewood Train Station. I was impressed it was so easy to register for Gogo Grandparent, which I did before her arrival,” Lada said in an email to the News-Record on July 7. “When I called to get our ride to the train station, Gogo Grandparent said the car would be at my house in three minutes and gave me the information on the car and driver. We arrived at the station owing nothing due to the generous $10 credit from SOMA.”
Lada also said that she would use Gogo Grandparent again if she needs it.
“I do have a smartphone but had never used it to get a ride I needed,” she said. “The recommendation for Gogo Grandparent and $10 credit gave me the courage to try it, and Gogo Grandparent was great. I think I would use Gogo Grandparent again, especially since I believe they said a ride could be requested in advance.
“This gets people a new option,” Rowe said. “It’s part of a growing trend of online car services. People who don’t have smartphones and don’t use technology can still take advantage.”