GreatCall Partners With Lyft to Transport Carless Seniors

Users hail a vehicle via GreatCall's operator services, circumventing the need to download and use the Lyft app.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Last week, ride-hailing service and Lyft rival Uber announced a program called RideWith24, through a partnership with home health-care provider 24Hr HomeCare. It also relies on operators (in this case, those working for 24Hr HomeCare) to act as intermediaries, so seniors using the service need not use a smartphone app. Many retirement communities provide transportation services for their residents, and there are some car services marketed specifically for seniors, such as SilverRide, which serves the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, a startup called Local Hero offered a ride-hailing service for seniors, according to a story published by FastCo. However, that company appears to no longer be operational.

David Inns, GreatCall's CEO, says his company is partnering with Lyft as a way of expanding its product offerings. "It's not about us trying to compete in the transportation world," he explains. "It's about giving more value to our consumers."

GreatCall has approximately 900,000 active customers in the United States. Between 60 and 70 percent of those customers have access to the personal operator service—a premium service for which they pay $34.99 per month, in addition to their phone subscription (rates vary based on the amount of talk time, texting and data access).

The pilot, which was launched on Aug. 22, is taking place in five areas: California, Florida, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth and Arizona. Lyft drivers will arrive within 10 minutes, and users can book a ride up to one week in advance. Users will be charged for each ride (fees vary based on distance and time of day, as well as the amount of demand), plus a small service fee that GreatCall charges, as part of customers' monthly GreatCall bill. Rollout to additional markets will be announced as the pilot moves forward, Inns says.

In addition to the Jitterbug phone, GreatCall sells a number of connected-health and safety products for seniors. Last year, it purchased San Francisco-based startup Lively, which sells a smartwatch and a number of sensors designed for use in the home, aimed at enabling seniors to live independently. Inns says that GreatCall will re-introduce Lively products to the North American market later this year, as part of its own product portfolio. This will expand GreatCall's current product offerings—which, aside from the Jitterburg smartphone, includes a Bluetooth-based activity tracker and a cellular-based emergency response device.

Lively's products include motion sensors used to determine whether a family member is moving around the house as he or she normally does, and whether that person is eating and taking medicine on a regular schedule. Lively sensors communicate to a smart wristwatch via a Bluetooth connection, and the watch connects via a cellular link to cloud-based servers and an app that caregiving download to their phones.

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