Can the Sharing Economy Solve the Financial Overload of the Aging Growth Problem?

2015-11-24-1448380817-1464688-ageathome28_med_nc.jpg
Growing old is costly. Take, for instance, the expense of health insurance and the costs of long-term care, housing, and chronic disease treatments. How will our economy withstand the rising overheads? It simply cannot. In the next few years, we won't have the luxury of being independent of others. It's a matter of acting responsibly and saving the resources we have abruptly neglected in the past.

The way I see, the aging population should be seen as a massive opportunity, not as the elephant in the room. Maybe it's time that we create services from underused assets.

Right here in the U.S., consumers flock to sharing cars, bikes, household goods, renting homes, clothes, jewelry, and even food. And it's not just the states either. It's happening all around the world. My first experience of peer-to-peer sharing was Car2Go but there's a new wave of businesses changing how we do business and consumers are all over them. Technology has helped companies take the leap into the sharing economy. The question:

How can we implement the sharing economy strategies to help older residents continue to live at home?

AARP says that's where most seniors want to grow older, plus living at home is gentler on the pocketbook. And consumers jump at the chance to give back, especially to the more elderly population. Take a look at this volunteer guide to get a quick glance of how people rally around helping the needy.

I also found a report created by PwC.com and the BAV Consulting. Together they studied the sharing economy and how consumers relate and respond to it. Take a look at a few of the companies involved in the sharing economy:

  • Hospitality and Dining: CouchSurfing, Airbnb, Feastly, LeftoverSwap

  • Automotive and Transportation: RelayRides, Hitch, Uber, Lyft, Getaround, Sidecar
  • Retail and Consumer Goods: Neighborgoods, SnapGoods, Poshmark, Tradesy
  • Media and Entertainment: Amazon Family Library, Wix, Spotify, SoundCloud, Earbits
  • After reading the report, I ask,

    Is it possible for entrepreneurs to tap into consumers desire to assist and create a sharing model to help older adults receive care at home and help them maintain a safe environment while feeling connected?

    First, let's look at the issues older Americans face when living at home:

    • Isolation and Loneliness

  • Transportation
  • Preparing meals
  • Shopping and errands
  • Safe environment with minimum exposure to tripping and falls
  • Remembering to take medications
  • Poor eyesight
  • Forgetting appointments
  • Unable to keep up with household chores and housekeeping
  • Poor nutrition or malnutrition
  • Home safety hazards such as poor lighting and loose carpeting
  • Unable to pay bills on time
  • The list clearly defines what seniors are up against in their quest of aging-in-place.

    How the Sharing Economy solve these issues (or can it?)

    In an article in Senior Housing News, it confirmed that senior care technology (developed today) is barely used by older consumers and questions whether developers has identified the things that people need. The article states, only 14% of respondents (seniors) in the survey use personal emergency response systems (and it was the most widely used,) a mere 9% used medication management technology; 4% said they used Internet-based care coordination sites, and just 1% utilized telehealth remote monitoring systems.

    It seems developers miss the point when designing services for seniors. Older adults don't care much for the tech features but prefer anything that keeps them safe, secure and connected.

    According to a report from PwC on "The Sharing Economy," the 55+ age group was one of the most frequent providers in the peer-to-peer transactions. In fact, that sector participated in the sharing economy at a rate nearly four times that of the overall U.S. population.

    It seems a perfect fit for seniors. Most services offered by the sharing model is cost effective. Say, for example, ride sharing via Uber or DriveNow (very cool, BMW car sharing) allows an individual to "use" the vehicle or service at a particular time.

    Individuals don't worry about parking it when not in use, buying insurance, paying property taxes, licensing fees, or purchasing tires and keeping up with the maintenance (sign me up!) Especially if a senior no longer drives, a service like Spedsta is a match made in heaven.

    But what about the biggest problem of all, the one that has the industry up in arms? Caregivers. The family caregiver is the lifeblood of senior care today, but that care group is shrinking, according to AARP. Here is the breakdown:

    • In 2010, there were seven potential caregivers for every 80+-year-old.

  • In 2030, the ratio will decline to 4 to 1.
  • In 2050, it falls to less than 3 to 1.
  • The rising need for care and the shrinking families demand a call for new solutions. Is the sharing economy the answer?

    What do you think? Can peer-to-peer solutions help our aging population and the rising costs of health care? If you could solve the caregiver shortage, what would your solution be?