Pew: Americans Realize Uber’s Potential for Seniors

Older Americans are pretty familiar with the concept of a shared economy—and that may bode well for their eventually choosing to age in place at home.

In fact, many older adults, may very well may have taken an Uber ride and bought used goods online this week, according to a new research report from Pew Research Center titled “Shared, Collaborative and On Demand: The New Digital Economy.”

The survey polled 4,787 American adults between Nov. 24 and Dec. 21, 2015, about their use of 11 different shared or on-demand online services, such as Airbnb, Uber and Lyft, grocery delivery services, and crowdfunding campaigns like Kickstarter.

As it turns out, seniors aren’t the most active participants in the shared economy—but they’re not inactive, either. Just over half—56%—of Americans 65 years old and older have not used any of these 11 different shared and on-demand platforms or services. But more than half—56%—of Americans 50 years old and older have indeed taken part in the “new digital economy.”

Younger Americans are far more likely to use ride-hailing apps than seniors; only 4% of Americans 65 and older have used these apps, compared with 28% of 18- to 29-year-olds. Still, 73% of respondents who have used ride-hailing services described the services as good options for older adults who have difficulty getting around on their own.

When it comes to home-sharing services, the numbers are a little stronger: 10% of Americans between 50 and 64 years old have used an online service like Airbnb, HomeAway or VRBO to stay overnight in a private residence, and 6% of Americans 65 and older have done so.

Meanwhile, 8% of Americans 65 and older have contributed money to support a fundraising project on platforms such as GoFundMe or Kickstarter, and 18% of Americans between 50 and 64 have as well.

Buying used items online is the most popular activity among those in the survey for seniors, with 23% of Americans 65 and older saying they have bought used or second-hand goods on websites like Craigslist or eBay. Forty-two percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 have done so as well.

Meanwhile, only 2% of Americans 65 and older and 3% of Americans between 50 and 64 have ordered groceries online and had them delivered to their homes.

All in all, the sharing economy may pose a threat to senior living communities because it enables people to stay at home longer, according to some senior living executives.

At the same time, some senior housing companies, realizing the benefits the sharing economy offers older residents, have formed partnerships to bring the sharing economy to their communities. Uber, for instance, has offered free technology tutorials and free rides at certain retirement communities and senior centers.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson