Key Takeaways

  • Thanks to a partnership between NCOA and Lyft, professionals can provide ride promos to help their older clients get reliable, affordable transportation to and from their COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

  • These tips from one of our Benefits Enrollment Centers can help organizations plan a cohesive strategy to facilitate Lyft rides.

  • Think you’re ready to try these strategies? Visit our page for the LyftUp ride codes and learn more.

NCOA recently partnered with Lyft to provide ride codes for reliable, affordable transportation to older adults needing to get to and from (both of) their COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

Anne McFarland, Director of Social Services at Aster Aging in Mesa, AZ, notes that her agency has been utilizing Lyft for the past several months for this purpose, and offers these helpful coordination strategies and tips to professionals who are scheduling rides for clients.

Week of the appointment

Aster Aging schedules vaccinations once a week. An outreach specialist calls the participant the week of their vaccine appointment for a reminder and to register the rides online through 211 specific site. If there is a perceived communication or cognitive barrier, the specialist will also call the morning of the ride. 

Aster Aging maintains a log of participants and appointment times, and advises professionals to communicate the following:

  • Determine whether the older adult uses a walker or if there will be a person assisting. (Aster Aging follows Lyft’s policy, which includes no walker or participant in the front seat with the driver, mask in place, and window down a bit for ventilation.) 
  • Remind participants that the driver may be delayed up to 15 minutes for pick up but that it’s okay because the extra time has been considered when setting the appointments. 
  • Encourage older adults to carry their cell phone; many times an Aster Aging representative has to speak to the driver directly to assist with pick-up details. This is not required but very beneficial. 
  • Most older adult participants will get a text telling them that driver is on the way but they still need to be reminded to be “curb side or visible” or the driver will pull away. 

Ride to the COVID-19 vaccination site  

Aster Aging instructs older adults being picked up at their residence to be ready five (5) minutes before the agreed pick-up time and wait outside in a safe area. Perceived communication challenges may require multiple calls along the process. The first pick-up at the resident’s home is scheduled 45 minutes before the appointment time. This accounts for average transportation and logistics for their area and allows for transitioning in and out of the vehicle.

Return trip home from vaccination site

The second pick-up occurs 20 minutes after the scheduled vaccine. This allows the typical 15-minute post-vaccine wait time. Aster Aging found that waiting any longer typically involved bathroom breaks and increased anxiety that often interfered with the pick-up, causing a missed ride. 

Pink umbrellas indicate where older adults can get a Lyft
Pink umbrellas indicate where older adults can get a Lyft.

Aster Aging's McFarland notes:

  • You can send a pin drop to the driver if they are having problems with the location, however, the pin drop must come from the registered phone, which belongs to the older adult (Aster Aging staff usually can assist verbally). 
  • Because Aster Aging is unable to use the Lyft logo for pick-up signage, the agency first attempted a general “drop off and pick up” sign. However, that led to anyone (not just those getting Lyfts) coming in for vaccines dropping off their vulnerable adults at that spot, which became an overall hazard. The Aster Aging staff started using pink umbrellas with participants’ names pinned on them to catch the drivers’ attention. 
  • Additional coordination may be required due to weather. For example, Aster Aging participants wait in the building due to heat and a staff member is in the parking lot waving down the drivers. Staff use group texts to notify the team when a driver is ready for pick-up and a team member often wheels or assists the participant out of the building and to the car.

As of October 19, 2021, the Lyft/NCOA vaccine ride code program successfully redeemed all funding and is no longer active.  NCOA will continue to keep the aging services network updated should funding open back up for this important effort.