The 50+ Are Sharing in the Benefits of the Sharing Economy

When you think about the sharing economy, you probably conjure up an image of Millennials using the latest app on their smartphones to order up something on-demand or provide a service to someone they’ve never met. Yes, the younger generation is leading the movement, but older Americans are also taking advantage of this trend.  In fact, according to a study by PWC, close to one quarter of sharing economy providers are 55 and older.

With research showing that many Americans aren’t able to save what they need for a secure retirement, signing up as drivers with ride-share services or providing a room to paying guests have become practical options for older Americans looking to generate additional income.  An estimated one in four Uber drivers is someone over 50 with no prior professional driving experience, and hosts ages 60 and older are the fastest growing category of providers with Airbnb.

In fact, women 60 and over have become the best hosts in the Airbnb network, with 63% of trips hosted by older women resulting in a five-star review.  That’s the highest percentage of top reviews of any age group, male or female.  Most are empty nesters leveraging their biggest asset – the family home – as a way to help make ends meet.  For some, it’s the only way to stay at home as they age.

The sharing economy is also helping communities become more age-friendly – particularly when it comes to getting around town. The city of Altamonte Springs in Florida, for example, is partnering with Uber to make it easier to get to doctor’s appointments, rail stations, or social activities.  Residents using a special app to order their Uber ride-share get discounted fares funded by the city.

Other services with sharing or on-demand applications include pet-sitting, parking spots, grocery shopping, errands and household chores, reselling clothes, and renting sporting equipment.  Not everything makes sense for everyone, and some have concerns about safety and privacy.   The AARP Bulletin online has a good overview of some of the major sharing economy services that includes what to watch out for whether you’re a provider or a consumer.

One thing seems certain.  The sharing economy is here to stay, and it’s likely to grow as the technology that makes it possible becomes more embedded in our lives.  And, as we’re seeing even today . . . it’s not just for Millennials anymore. Older Americans can find real value in the experience - tapping their inner entrepreneur to boost their income or taking advantage of flexible, affordable goods and services to help them as they age. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Nancy LeaMond, chief advocacy and engagement officer and executive vice president of AARP for community, state and national affairs, leads government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You can follow her on Twitter @NancyLeaMond.

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