Silverride Cares

Article excerpt

SilverRide is this year's recipient of the ASA Business and Aging Award. The award was presented on March 18 during the 2009 ASA-NCOA Aging in America Conference in Las Vegas. The ASA Business and Aging Awards honor companies that offer exemplary programs and services to older adults and their families, expand public awareness of the private sector's involvement with older adults and create replicable performance models.

"Mark doesn't have to help me up the stairs to put the groceries away, but I'm so grateful that he does," explains Mrs. Johnson. Now 85 years old and with mild Alzheimer's disease, Johnson stopped driving three years ago when she experienced balance problems. "We always have such a delightful conversation during my rides, and he feels like family to me."

Mark is a driver escort for SilverRide, a San Francisco-based senior transportation, accompaniment and activity planning company founded in 2006. The relationship between Johnson and the driver isn't unusual: this connection and the ability to manage complex itineraries are characteristics that distinguish SilverRide from other transportation and companionship services. This company focuses on a high-quality customer experience to fulfill clients' needs for comfortable, reliable and dignified transportation. . .

"Most importantly, I love the independence SilverRide affords me. It's totally flexible - like I never stopped driving. Mark picks me up from my adult learning program and then we go shopping together, and finally pick up my granddaughter from her school," says Johnson.

PASSION TO SERVE

We met in the MBA program at the Haas School of Business at Berkeley, Calif., but, after pursuing different careers in high-tech sales and management consulting, we reunited through our mutual lifelong passion for volunteering with elders. We wanted to serve elders in a professional capacity and began a oneyear research project of the senior "space" to understand its challenges and unaddressed issues. Our findings pointed toward transportation and other support services such as companionship, concierge services and event planning.

These problems were easy to understand, but creating solutions was difficult. We found that the key was to provide a service that would allow older people to maintain their dignity and independence after their driving "retirement." SilverRide was borne from our realization that elders did not have access to the kinds of services we believed they needed. Many serious barriers, though, stood between us and entry into this marketplace.

In recent years, "sexy" businesses have been all about Web 2.0 technology and the best online, social networking opportunities. Less attractive were business startups that included the high expense of vehicles, face-to-face interaction and older adults. This profile was viewed as an operational disaster, one to be avoided by MBA graduates who typically go for high-tech Internet careers. Three years later, it appears that we've found the right recipe, which includes a hearty portion of behind-the-scenes technology.

A QUALITY RIDE

SilverRide offers private transportation, accompaniment, activities planning and concierge services to a membership of older adults with diverse needs, their families and caregivers. Some members only need reliable transport to and from medical appointments; others spend many hours weekly using our accompaniment and companionship services. People are very happy with our quality and flexibility, personalized customer service, educated and engaging drivers, concierge services and activity planning services. The value-added element for our customers is that we provide a way to help them stay connected and engaged in life.

The service landscape for senior transportation has several public and private options, and SilverRide has found a niche with our personal customer service paired with an understanding of the legal and regulatory landscapes and requirements. …