Senior transportation in East Bay on ‘GoGo’ thanks to pilot program
By Lou Fancher
A $22,500 bequest from a former Lafayette resident who used Lafayette’s Senior Transportation Program’s Lamorinda Spirit Van has endowed the pilot phase of a public-private partnership between city and GoGoGrandparent.
In a time when not everyone has crossed the landline-free divide — but plenty of seniors wish to age in place — GoGoGrandparent allows non-drivers to retain independence, according to Lafayette Transportation coordinator Mary Bruns. Plus, it’s simple, she adds, noting that riders call a phone number, select ride options, and operators place orders on behalf of riders.
GoGo operators monitor every ride, offering directional assistance to the Lyft, Uber, or similar company’s on-demand drivers, making sure they are competent and comfortable to drive older adults, and providing family updates when rides are completed.
The oversight fee of 19 cents per minute is added to the vendor fee and quoted at the time of the call. No membership fee is required. Unlike the Spirit Van, whose volunteer drivers work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondy-Friday, GoGo runs 24/7.
The gift subsidy pays 50 percent of a Lafayette rider’s transportation costs, up to $50 a month and also supports a taxi scrip service.
“Lafayette’s transportation was initiated over a decade ago,” says Bruns. “A commission, a group of folks interested in senior issues, thought the needs weren’t recognized. Our goal is to keep this issue in front of the public. My hope is that folks will know this kind of gift is possible.”
GoGoGrandparent co-founder Justin Boogaard’s startup grew from his love for his grandmother and an entrepreneurial zeal that had the 2011 UCLA graduate determined to provide her — and eventually, others — with caretaker services.
“We give seniors another option for independence,” he says in an interview.
An AARP report says 90 percent of older adults do not want to leave their homes to enter retirement communities. Since launching the service in January 2016, Boogaard guards GoGo’s exact business metrics but says, “We have tens of thousands of callers and have done hundreds of thousands of rides.”
The company, operationally profitable as of May 2017 due to controlled, word-of-mouth growth and $120,000 in backing from Y Combinator, seeks no outside funding at this time.
Instead, through subsidized partnerships like the one in Lafayette and a similar program in New Jersey, a beta test of meal delivery in L.A. and gradual spread at municipalities countrywide, Boogaard describes planned expansion as organic, methodical, dependable.
In the future, he foresees adding senior services that in addition to transportation include meal delivery, medication management, general shopping, communicating with friends and family, billing management, maybe even housekeeping and laundry support.
“It’s all the basic things someone needs to do on their own to live independently,” he says.
The most frequent destinations for GoGo customers, whose average age is 85, are medical providers, with hair salons and restaurants close behind.
“We’re customer support that doesn’t require someone to be a member of an organization or part of a caregiver services company. We give them a consumer-facing solution that doesn’t require an insurance plan to order a ride,” Boogaard says.
“People call, order, continue on their way knowing that their ride will be handled — and our professionals will notify their family to reassure them that they are being taken care of,” he continues.
Drivers are vetted with special attention.
“We only work with drivers who want to drive older adults,” Boogaard says. “For example, they’re contacted by an operator (which initially was Boogaard and co-founder David Lung, but is now a carefully-selected team) to make sure they’re comfortable and able to put a cane in the car if that’s requested. That management of the ride is the best feature of what we do. We make sure these rides go off without a hitch: the driver, the rider, the family are comfortable.”