GreatCall Expands Lyft Partnership to Pick Up Seniors Nationwide

GreatCall, the maker of the Jitterbug cellphone and other products and services for older adults, has extended its partnership with the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company Lyft to offer GreatCall customers the ability to schedule rides without a smartphone app. No financial terms were disclosed.

The San Diego-based healthtech company said Tuesday it is rolling out GreatCall Rides nationally, after testing it with customers in California, Florida, Arizona, and the Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth areas for more than two years, since August of 2016.

GreatCall was acquired by Minnesota-based Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) earlier this year from private equity firm GTCR for $800 million in cash.

To schedule a ride, customers press “0” and tell an operator their destination. GreatCall adds the cost of the ride, plus a “nominal fee,” to its customers’ monthly bills. That means users get to skip the steps through which Lyft users typically to hail a ride: Downloading a smartphone app, making an account, and requesting pick-ups via the mobile app.

GreatCall wouldn’t disclose how many people used the program or the number of rides that were scheduled during the pilot, but said that of those who scheduled a ride, 77 percent were repeat users. The company has about 900,000 subscribers nationwide.

While such services for senior citizens are often discussed in the context of transportation for medical appointments, the company found its customers also used Lyft for social purposes, such as visiting friends and family and participating in activities, according to GreatCall CEO David Inns.

Seniors adopt technology at a lower rate than the general public, according to a Pew Research Center report published in 2017, which estimated that 42 percent of people age 65 or older in the U.S. own a smartphone. Eighty percent reported owning a cellphone.

GreatCall isn’t the only organization to have partnered with Lyft or Uber, the U.S.’s best-known and rival ride-hailing companies, to offer streamlined service for senior citizens.

In 2016, the same year GreatCall announced its pilot program with Lyft, Uber debuted an operator service through 24Hr Home Care, which has locations in California, Texas and Arizona. Users of RideWith24, as it’s called, pay for the cost of the ride plus a “management fee” to 24Hr.

And startup GoGoGrandparent also offers its services as a middleman, connecting the big ride-hailing companies and senior riders without a smartphone.

Lyft said in June that it had boosted its valuation to $15.1 billion thanks to a fresh financing round of $600 million from previous investor Fidelity Management & Research.

Both Lyft and Uber are reportedly eying IPOs next year.

Sarah de Crescenzo is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can reach her at sdecrescenzo@xconomy.com. Follow @sarahdc

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