The Digital Senior Part 2: Sharing Economy Secrets To Independent Living & Earning In Retirement
Part 2 – Independent Living: How Seniors Can Avoid Expensive Assisted Living Facilities
This series is part of a larger ongoing project conducted by the Casual Capitalist over the next several months. We are currently writing a book teaching seniors how to leverage the digital tools available to them to live more economically and independently. The key here is income supplementation and independent living through the sharing economy. If you would like to get updates on this project please sign up as a Digital Senior Insider here. This will include a free advance copy of the book when the time comes. We love sharing!
Welcome back to Part 2 of the Digital Seniors series! If you haven’t read part 1 of the series, check it out here. Be sure to stick around until the end of the post, where we have 2 bonus independent living tools, but more on that later.
Today we are going to teach you how to leverage the sharing economy to help with independent living in your retirement years. There are so many tools at your disposal that can help you or your loved ones, stay at home and avoid the high costs of an assisted living facility.
According to Genworth Financial, the average monthly cost of an assisted living one bedroom unit is $3,500. That’s just the average. Now consider that according to the AARP, the average income for those aged 65 and older is $31,742. This includes all streams of income: government aids, retirement plans, savings, and part-time income.
So, the average cost of an assisted living facility is $42,000 a year, and the average senior in the U.S. has a total income stream of $31,000. And, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, more than 40 percent of us will need to stay in a nursing home at some point in our lives.
Does anyone else see a problem?
Meet Robbie – An Independent Living Story
Unfortunately, Robbie’s wife of 43 years passed away last year, leaving Robbie struggling with day-to-day activities. Robbie’s children immediately began the dreaded conversation with their father about assisted living.
Robbie knew he needed help doing the tasks his wife once did but did not have the income to pay for an assisted living facility. The ultimate solution was that his two adult children would supplement the cost. This didn’t sit well with Robbie.
Enter Robbie’s Grandson Mike. Mike is a 26-year-old Uber driver who had thought long and hard about his Grandfather’s situation. Following a delicious Thanksgiving meal, both Robbie and Mike rolled into the family office.
Mike began to introduce Robbie to some sharing economy platforms that he felt would be helpful to his Grandfather. Mike began by introducing Uber, TaskRabbit, and Instacart.
This was all overwhelming to Robbie, but he decided to give it a try with Mike’s help. Today, Robbie enjoys the following sharing economy services:
- Grocery delivery via Instacart every Friday
- Uber drives to, and from, medical appointments
- Uber drives every Saturday to Robbie’s favorite coffee shop to meet friends
- A TaskRabbit Tasker, named Jerry, on an irregular basis to help around Robbie’s home
Although it took some getting used to and help from Mike, Robbie is now a sharing economy pro.
Like Robbie, independent living with the help of the sharing economy is becoming increasingly appealing, and necessary.
Many of the duties described in this article are typically taken on by family member caregivers. And there’s nothing wrong with this, except for demographics.
The family caregiver is an important group in society, but it is shrinking. According to the AARP, in 2010, there were seven potential family caregivers for every person over the age of 80. This is a good number.
But, by 2030, this ratio will shrink to four to one, and by 2050, it falls to three to one. This is not good.
So we have a growing need for assisted living, a shrinking pool of caregivers, and costs for assisted living surpassing average senior income.
Don’t be discouraged, the Casual Capitalist is here to help. There are dozens of services out there that can facilitate your, or your loved one’s, independent living. Assuming there are no serious medical or mobility issues, seniors can continue to live in their homes with the help of a few services we will describe here.
Before we start, one quick word about accountability. A question we receive often is, “how do I know that the sharing economy is safe?” This is a great question, and it’s a legitimate concern especially for seniors. The short answer is ratings and reviews.
As you will see, all the sharing economy websites discussed here have a rating and review system. That is, before you hire someone, you can read what previous users wrote about this particular person. In short, only hire those with stellar reviews.
You can also rest assured that most, if not all, of these websites conduct background checks one those selling services.
Let’s now dive into the specific platforms that can help you, or your loved one, focus on independent living.
1. Shopping – Let Someone Else Do It!
The most popular grocery shopping platform is Instacart. Through their website, shoppers can upload grocery lists and make all their food selection online. Users complete their order by scheduling when they want their delivery.
Instacart operates in almost every major US city. Due to its popularity, Target has now partnered with Instacart to provide grocery delivery.
As a nod to their success, in 2015 Forbes declared Instacart to be the #1 company on the Forbes Most Promising Companies list.
Deliverers on Instacart are typically required to have some sort of grocery experience and also must pass a background check.
If Instacart is not available in your area, check out a similar delivery platform called Postmates.
2. Transportation: Getting To And From Medical Appointments
Uber’s growth has been nothing short of spectacular. By 2014, Uber was valued at $40 billion. In 2015, Uber was adding 50,000 new drivers a month. Now, Uber has over 1 million drivers.
Although headquartered in the U.S., Uber is available worldwide in over 266 cities across 55 countries. It’s in more cities than a Rolling Stones tour.
Simply put, Uber and Lyft work like a taxi service. You download their apps on your phone, input your destination, and request a ride. It’s as simple as that.
Once accepted, you can view the exact location of your driver and receive an accurate arrival time directly to your phone.
3. Taskers: Assisted Living Through Chores & Handy Work
Sharing economy tasking services such as TaskRabbit, AskForTask, and AirTasker, allow people to complete the to-do lists of others. This can include assembling furniture, fixing anything, yard work, cleaning, painting, walking your dog, and much much more.
Our favorite here at The Casual Capitalist is TaskRabbit.
TaskRabbit is an online community that connects Taskers (those looking for work), with those looking to pay someone for a particular task. For instance, if you need yard work, you can hire a Tasker to do exactly that through the TaskRabbit website.
TaskRabbit is the most widely used tasking service and is available worldwide. TaskRabbit is present in most major U.S. cities, as well as the U.K. For all Canadian readers, please check out AskForTask.
For security, TaskRabbit completes a criminal record check on its over 30,000 taskers. They also offer $1 million in insurance in case of injury or damage.
Specific to seniors, if you need anything done around your house, TaskRabbit is there to help. Maybe you need a handyman, a gardener, a painter, or an interior designer. TaskRabbit is a fantastic way for you to get well-priced labor at the click of a button.
Other tasking websites that may be of use include:
- Washio: A website that offers laundry and dry cleaning services delivered to your door.
- Airtasker: A tasking service for all my Australian friends.
- AskForTask: For all my fellow Canadians (yes, snow shoveling is available).
- Hello Alfred: A weekly subscription service that can handle shopping, laundry, and house cleaning.
- DogVacay and Rover.com: Both of these platforms connect you with local animal lovers who cam walk your dog on a regular basis.
4. Proper Nutrition & Exercise: The Linchpins Of Healthy Aging
We will not get into the merits of healthy eating and exercise here. We won’t tell you about all the health problems that are caused by nutritional deficiencies in seniors.
Neither will we get into the details of a recent World Health Organization report stating that “many diseases suffered by older persons are the result of dietary factors.”
No, we won’t get into all this, because we wouldn’t be giving you anything you don’t already know. Today, we only offer you solutions and resources.
Here, you can hire experts in these particular fields to ensure you are fulfilling these two infinitely important aspects of your wellbeing. All you need to do is register with ThumbTack, who will then give you access to their database of wellness professionals who are ready to help you or your loved one.
Our last category is caregiving. If all the above categories do not meet your needs, then you can consider specific sharing economy platforms for senior care.
One of our favorite senior care platforms is Honor. Honor is an online service that connects home caregivers with seniors or their families.
As with other sharing economy platforms, Honor provides seniors with details of their caregiver location and arrival time. What we like most about Honor, is that the families of seniors can access information about the caregiver and their activities.
This includes what the caregiver completed during a particular visit, and the length of time the caregiver spent with the senior.
Honor is currently limited to only a few US cities but is hoping to expand rapidly. You can sign up on their website for updates.
Independent Living Is Only A Click Away
We believe that the services discussed above can help with independent living and delay the transition to more expensive assisted living.
Whether it’s grocery shopping through Instacart, handyman work with TaskRabbit, nutritional coaching through ThumbTack, or caregiving with Honor, there are so many options out there.
With the average cost of an assisted living facility exceeding $40,000 a year, we understand why the above services are becoming more appealing to seniors. We also understand the technological learning curve most of you face as technology changes on a daily basis.
But if you start early, introducing these platforms into your lives early, you will be amazed at how effortless and accessible they become.
During our research for this article we came across two other amazing tools that can help you, or your loved one, live independently.
The first, MediSafe, is a smartphone app that manages medications through a virtual pillbox. With over 1 million downloads, MediSafe sends medication notifications and can notify a third party if a patient forgets.
Secondly, we want to introduce you to Be My Eyes. This platform connects the visually impaired with sighted users. When someone with a visual impairment is stuck in a bind, they are connected through their smartphone with a sighted volunteer.
The Be My Eyes volunteer is automatically given voice and video access to the smartphone most of all. The sighted volunteer, through the video and audio stream, can talk the person through any difficult task. Genius!