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AGE-WELL Partners With Uber Around Transportation for Older Adults

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We are pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with transportation innovator Uber.

Co-founded by Canadian entrepreneur Garrett Camp in 2009, Uber is evolving the way the world moves. Present in over 40 communities in Canada, Uber has revolutionized transportation and offers more than 22,000 Canadian driver partners a new way to earn a living in their spare time by offering a more affordable transportation alternative to hundreds of thousands of riders across the country.

AGE-WELL was called upon to play an integral role in the introduction of a new service in Canada called uberASSIST, which provides transportation for both older adults and people with disabilities.  Uber reached out to AGE-WELL for advice on the training of driver partners.

“What it demonstrates is that AGE-WELL is being recognized as an organization on the leading edge of research for seniors,” said Scientific Director Alex Mihailidis, who is serving on Uber’s Advisory Board for the project.

Mihailidis asked Jan Polgar, Professor of Occupational Therapy at Western University and AGE-WELL Project Lead, to consult with Uber on the training.  Polgar is the co-leader of the AGE-WELL research project CARE-RATE, which is developing a new online tool to assist family caregivers in finding appropriate support technologies.

She has decades of experience studying the transportation needs of older adults and a keen understanding of the challenges.  When a senior loses her driver’s license, the resultant loss of independence can lead to depression.  Polgar welcomes the arrival of uberASSIST as a useful addition to the menu of transportation services.

“I think this is an excellent initiative,” she said.

“To have an option where they can get door to door service and have someone who’s sensitive to their needs is a very good service and is definitely needed.”

Polgar found that Uber had already done significant research—their principal consultant was an athlete who uses a wheelchair.

Polgar gave advice on the appropriate way to speak respectfully to older adults and on how they should not be automatically grouped with younger people who have cognitive impairments.  She lauds the acronym that was developed for the driver training: “WALL”, which stands for Watch Ask Listen Learn”

 “I thought that was really good. Don’t assume what assistance the person needs. Ask them.”

Mihailidis says Uber was also keen to tap into AGE-WELL’s connections with seniors and the caregiving community to get better feedback on the product so that it can be continually improved.

As part of the partnership, Uber will be funding a scholarship for a graduate student with an interest in exploring issues related to seniors and transportation.  The details will be announced by mid-summer, but Mihailidis hopes that it goes beyond the writing of a thesis.

“Perhaps some interesting field research, or direct field work with Uber, to add an innovative aspect to their research to make them stand out in this area.”

AGE-WELL does not yet have a research project related to driving and transportation, but Mihailidis says the Uber partnership opens a new door in the field.