REGION — Imagine that your 87-year-old relative wants to hitch a ride with Uber or Lyft but doesn’t have a smartphone. Or maybe he or she has a smartphone but finds the ride-sharing apps difficult to use.
A company founded by Millennials called GoGoGrandparent has envisioned such scenarios and designed a service that “uses older technology, like a landline, in a new way that bridges the gap” for older adults, according to Marketing Manager Darren Hsu.
The company operates nationwide and has been catching on locally. Hsu reported a 136 percent yearly increase in signups from June 2017 to June 2018 in North San Diego County.
Once enrolled, customers dial a 1-855 number from a landline or cell phone and follow key prompts to, for example, immediately request that a car be sent to their home or to where they were last dropped off. They can press “0” to talk to a live operator.
Relatives can be texted with updates of their loved one’s location, like “Hazel made it! She’s at 865 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054.” A Carlsbad resident named Robin, whose mother signed up for the service, posted on Facebook: “I love the peace of mind from getting the notifications!”
Anne Strick, a La Jolla resident in her 90s, told The Coast News that GoGo’s service is “terrific” because it’s “completely automated and incredibly easy to use.”
Two to three times a week, Strick uses GoGoGrandparent to get to appointments such as physical therapy for what she called her “whacked back.”
She also takes rides to Los Angeles to see a doctor. Strick has an iPhone and knows how to use it, but she prefers her landline.
The company not only orders, but also monitors rides on their customers’ behalf. For example, if a driver is taking longer than expected to arrive at the destination, an operator will contact the driver to inquire about the delay.
Customers are charged for their rides at the rates set by Uber and Lyft — plus 27 cents a minute for GoGoGrandparent’s concierge fee.
Hsu said of himself and the two co-founders, Justin Boogaard and David Lung, “We’re all very close to our grandmothers and know how they would want to be treated.” In fact, Boogaard’s grandmother prompted the idea for GoGoGrandparent when she asked him if Uber had a phone number. The wheels started turning, and away the idea went.
The company is based in Santa Clara, California, and will be three years old in January. It was launched with investor funding from the startup accelerator Y Combinator.