Can the Sharing Economy Alter the Services for the Aging?

volunteer delivering meals to an elderly woman
The Uber economy is already helping millions of young people manage their lives. The real game changer comes when we extend these services to help our aging population and their family caregivers. Andrew Bret Wallis/Getty Images

The sharing economy is in its infancy, and the series of services offered by start-ups that enable peer-to-peer exchange using technology may alter how we help the aging populations. It’s only the beginning, but the system holds potential because collaboration is at the heart of community and economic life. Here are some ideas on how the sharing economy will help seniors and family caregivers.

For the sharing economy to flourish, it must involve few aspects:

  • exchanging,
  • collective buying,
  • collaborative consumption and economy,
  • shared value,
  • co-ops,
  • the pay-as-you-use market,
  • peer-to-peer lending,
  • social media,
  • crowdfunding and crowdsourcing,
  • and user-generated content (UGC).

It offers a sustainable ecosystem comprised of active participants who produce and deliver goods and services collaboratively. The value is not purely financial but wider, to embrace a social worth on a local, regional, national and global scale. The control distributes among the participants and enables them to access and share needs and solutions. There are many conveniences that older and younger generations can exchange to make one another’s lives easier, richer, and affordable.

When reviewing current companies like Uber and AirBnB, we garner ideas that foster a sustainable future for both, the older and younger markets. But what’s needed are ideas that empower them, that’s why asked the Aging Council, “Reveal a sharing economy business concept that enables the elderly to thrive?


Shannon Martin of Aging Wisely, I love things like car services extending to food delivery. These add-ons can be great for anyone with limited access to driving/mobility. The need for ride sharing to partner with doctor's offices and recreation centers/gyms, pharmacies for delivery, etc.

All services should have the ability to gift credit/set up accounts, etc. for families to do for loved ones.

Alex Chamberlain, Easy Living Florida, Ridesharing will have an enormous impact on transportation for seniors. Uber already enables the adult child/POA to set up an account and put a credit card on file. No cash exchanged, the outlined route comes via email to the adult child or guardian. Lyft in NY partners with the local Area on Aging. I can also see an AirBnB model which includes services from a caregiver, for an elder/physically challenged person to travel and get assistance.

Living Options

Margo Rose, Body Aware Grief, Many seniors, remain comfortable living alone and reluctant to move out when they need additional care. Often their homes have many extra bedrooms as their adult children are no longer living with them. The sharing economy could help match responsible "roommates" willing to make a work trade in caring for the home or senior in exchange for housing.

Scot Cheben, Caregiving Answers, I would create a worldwide facility locator that allows people to preview a facility with video tours and 360 degrees views.  It includes an open bed count and waiting lists.  Think of this as time sharing for senior living.

  How cool would it be to play new games and socialize with diverse people of different cultures? 

Home Services

Anthony Cirillo, The Aging Experience, Instacart has a solution for grocery delivery. Honor is Uberizing home care. Alfred handles grocery shopping, laundry, dry cleaning and house cleaning. TaskRabbit automates your ability to find people to do everyday chores. We need something to automate the social aspects of aging in place. Similarly, we need platforms where caregivers can communicate and support each other.

Nancy Ruffner, Navigate NC, Telemedicine, Telecare: enable diagnosis and treatment by way of technology with patient and professional together and the specialist remotely.

Provide care to more people at less cost in less time. Retain care, education, and support for the patient in their community. Prevent readmissions to hospitals by having patients followed closely in that 30-day period. A better outcome for all.

Volunteer and Mentorship

Mike Radice, Chartacares, Establishing a local community 'connection service' from an approved list of local volunteers or charitable organizations and their service specialties such that Seniors can post a request, and those volunteers can step up to help Seniors in their communities.

Michelle Jeong, LifeAssist, Unfortunately, sharing economy business models like Uber rely on a degree of technology adoption and comfort. As a population, seniors still struggle with technology, and the percent usage of smartphones is small. That said, it would be amazing to see collaborations between seniors and adoption agencies or elementary school tutoring programs such as this one.

Kim Crawford, M.D., Dr. Kim’s Age Well Solutions, We all keep hearing about how the generation which preceded us is better off than our children or we will be.The "great generation" is full of innovators, be they businessmen, businesswomen, or expert child-rearers and cooks who could teach this "grab and go" generation a thing or two...or three!

David Mordehi, Advise, and Protect, As a society, we have the ability to benefit from our elders' experiences and professional backgrounds.  I make it a practice to encourage elders to share their vast knowledge be it through writing Blogs, mentoring young people or volunteering their time and extensive knowledge in some other form.  The elderly person has more meaning and value in their life by contributing to the community.


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