Getting around in the silver years:Transportation service keeps seniors mobile

Concerned about her recently widowed mother, who lives in San Francisco, a woman from New York called SilverRide, a Bay Area senior transportation company. The daughter said her mother was not going to the doctor as much, or even leaving her apartment.

“We met with her mother and came up with a plan, and found out how much she enjoys day trips to see friends, especially in Sausalito,” says Susan Steiner Saal, co-owner of SilverRide. “A lot of the time it is the adult children of seniors who call us. They want help managing their parents’ needs.”

Since it began in early 2007, SilverRide, which is located in San Francisco, has provided more than 16,000 rides throughout the Bay Area for seniors to go to medical appointments, on shopping trips or other outings, or to see family and friends. It also provides free rides for Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

This year, the American Society on Aging named SilverRide its National Business of the Year.

Jeff Maltz and Susan Steiner Saal

“Susan and Jeff [have] created services that improve the quality of life of older adults by enabling them to get out, socialize and enjoy the things they love to do,” says Robert Stein, president and chief executive of the American Society on Aging.

While SilverRide is a for-profit business, Steiner Saal and her business partner, Jeff Maltz, “champion the idea of voluntary transportation services. We want to help programs, such as those sponsored by JFCS, that enable seniors to get out,” Maltz says.

Steiner Saal and Maltz’s commitment to community service runs deep. Steiner Saal, 36, is an active volunteer at the Jewish Home in San Francisco and is on the board of the Maimonides Fund, part of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Endowment Fund, which funds programs and services that assist needy Jewish elderly in the Bay Area.

Maltz, 39, serves on the board of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and is active in the federation’s National Young Leadership Cabinet.

“We strongly believe in charitable giving,” Maltz says.

They also believe in championing the independence of the elderly. Steiner Saal and Maltz say that even though someone may lose the ability to drive, they don’t have to abandon being mobile.

“The No. 1 reason why we started this company is that we both knew so many people who often were just lonely,” Maltz says. “We meet our members in person and decide where it’s appropriate to use our services and where they can use volunteer organizations.”

As part of the intake process, SilverRide staff visit a client’s home first to assess the person’s needs and the layout of their house and neighborhood. Then they conduct an interview to determine how best to serve the client.

Meeting people’s transportation and social needs is going to become more important as the baby boomers age — in the Bay Area in particular. In San Francisco, 17.6 percent of residents were 60 or older in 2000; by 2020 that is expected to grow to 21.3 percent.

“That will make it the highest percentage of seniors for any metropolitan area in the U.S.,” Maltz says.

SilverRide currently has a fleet of 10 vehicles. Steiner Saal and Maltz note that the company’s drivers come from very diverse backgrounds — but they all have one thing in common.

“We have a Buddhist monk, an inventor, a pastor, a musician, a photographer and an extreme skateboarder,” Maltz says. “They all love to work with seniors. Our drivers and members have an extremely close relationship.”

Adds Steiner Saal, “We feel good about helping people with their cost-effective transportation needs. Ultimately what we do is all about the interaction between SilverRide and the seniors.”

For more information about SilverRide, visit or call (415) 861-7433.

Steven Friedman

Steven Friedman is a freelance writer.