Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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For older adults, trends that happen in California stay in California

Pew just offered up a trend-hype reality check.  RANT ON. To read the click-thirsty media hype you would think that the 'gig economy,' aka sharing, on-demand, or pick-your-term whatever, was a solution to world hunger -- or at least transportation, pollution and car maintenance costs.  Who would have thought it was powered by old people? Was this aggrandizement of all things 'sharing' based in reality? Per new Pew study, maybe not.  Oh yeah, in Silicon Valley and for its acolytes, the 'idea' has fueled bubble boys Tweeting re-orders of ping-pong tables.  But beyond the California border -- it turns out the sharing economy has not exactly taken the aged 50+ world by storm. Or any of the world, actually.


Let’s deflate a few bubbles, shall we? First of all, the report, Shared Collaborative, and On Demand: The New Digital Economy, also counted responder answers about non-shared/giggy old standards -- that were part of the economy, so to speak, not the New Digital Economy. The Pew survey asked if people purchased tickets from an online seller like StubHub, used same day delivery (AmazonPrime), or purchased second hand goods online (would that be Craigslist, a 20-year-old graphics-free site)?  Ya think Craig thought he was in the 'sharing or gig economy' then? How about eBay? Memo to Pew – isn't that a stretch applying these terms retrospectively and then compare their offerings in a bar graph with the equivalent of Etsy, the question’s example, or Airbnb? Just asking.


Ride-hailing apps – looks like more marketing is required to boomers and beyond.  So let’s say a ride-hailing app was Uber or Lyft (which was explicit in the Pew questions).  Only 8% of people aged 50-64 said they had used one of these services, and only 4% of the 65+. Now switch to home-sharing – Arbnb. That question also cited VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner, part of a holding company founded in 2005 in Austin – seriously, who knew, especially the founders, that it was in the New Digital Economy???) That probably explains why 10% of Pew responders aged 50-64 said yes to that question, but only 6% of the 65+ have tried it.  Presumably that means they haven’t rented the Treehouse either.


Up this week – expect denial from promoters of the rise of gig-and-on-demand whatever.  The California moon dust folk will no doubt read the Pew study and assert that the wrong people were surveyed. The gig economy is such an appealing media euphemism. But doesn't it really mask the difficulty people have had keeping and obtaining full-time jobs?  Okay, some love their free time and ability to take work as they want it.  In the bad old days, we might have called these folks temps.  But apparently while independent contractors – the preferred Uber term -- say they are happy, some temps wish they actually had jobs. Even the words 'independent contractor' lost their previous meaning about actual work -- not a transaction for a San Francisco home care hour or a tiny task or an app-summoned ride in Boston. In the ancient history of IT, as one example, contractor assignments were documented in durations of months or years. Sigh – today in the 'Shared, Collaborative and On Demand, the New Digital Economy,' that does seem so, uh, twentieth century.  RANT OFF.  

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