The sharing economy: smart solutions for smart seniors

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One night back in 2008 two men had trouble hailing a taxi. And so Uber was born. Now, more than 390 cities around the globe can easily hail a ride in a vehicle from one destination to another. Uber is one example of the growth of the sharing economy. So what is a sharing economy, and why should you care?

By sourcing local examples, you can find some really smart solutions for everyday tasks that are good for your wallet, good for strengthening local communities and good for reducing negative environmental impacts.

What is a sharing economy?

A sharing economy is also referred to as:

  • A peer-to-peer market
  • An access economy
  • Collaborative consumption.

In simple terms, a sharing economy is the economic coordination of sharing goods or services between people, either for free, for a fee or in exchange for another product or service. eBay is an early example that has grown to be a huge commercial endeavour. Communal vegetable gardens are another example.

What are the pros and cons of a sharing economy?

As we’ve seen in the media with Uber, there are benefits and challenges of these rising disruptive economic systems. They are ‘disruptive’ in that they shake up the status quo, including bringing the pricing of, and environmental impacts of mammoth monopoly or duopoly industries into question.

Some of the many benefits to consumers and communities include:

  • Bringing back the power of localised systems of exchange
  • Supporting local economies – if the sharing economy is kept local (there lies the challenge)
  • Creating stronger communities by bringing people together around shared needs and wants
  • Leveraging existing products (for example car pooling services) and coordinating online rather than through physical shopfronts, can reduce negative environmental impacts
  • Providing consumers with more flexibility of services.

As disruptive, emerging concepts grow into thriving global businesses, some of the challenges include:

  • Potential impact on larger employers and employment
  • Potential for negative impacts on national economies via taxation implications such as avoidance
  • Slipping under the radar on otherwise regulated products and services may, at times, bring consumer protections into question.

5 sharing economy services for smart consumers

Here are just a handful of some services that may not only make your life easier, but add some colour too!

Airbnb: local accommodation in Australia and around the world

A favourite past time of this author, is browsing tree houses, yurts and castles to stay in for a holiday adventure where we can ‘live like locals’.

Airbnb started in 2009 as an online service to match spare rooms available for accommodation, to travellers. It now boasts over 11 million guests staying in over 34,000 cities world-wide (source: The Guardian / Sharing Economy: Sustainable Alternative Economics)

You can search from the comfort of your mobile phone or laptop on the couch. You can choose to just book someone’s spare room, or find options where the entire house (or castle) is yours to book.

Try it now and dream for hours, or book a stay – Airbnb Australia. Alternatively, you can offer out a spare room, and earn some spare cash.

Airtasker: need someone to run an errand?

My elderly father lives interstate. Sadly, he ended up spending four weeks in hospital, 2.5 hours away from family and friends. He had only packed enough clothes for one week. He wasn’t well enough to pop down to the local Laundromat, and the hospital didn’t offer personal laundry services. What to do?

Airtasker came to the rescue! Airtasker gives you access to almost half a million people ready and waiting to run errands for you. All I had to do was register, and then publish a short request to local ‘Airtaskers’ in Brisbane. I chose a warm, caring single mum who was supporting her family through Airtasker tasks. Customer reviews were overwhelmingly positive. Problem solved. My Dad loved having fresh laundry for the rest of his hospital stay.

Take a browse now and find out how it works – Airtasker. Alternatively, if you’re good at running any kind of errand and want to earn extra retirement funds, you can register to be an ‘Airtasker’.

GoGet: why own a car when you can share one?

In 2002 some Sydney residents borrowed a new car and set up a market stall at an annual festival called ‘Newtown CarShare’. Locals were invited to sign up for hourly access to a fleet of cars parked around their neighbourhood. That meant they could sell their car, pocket some change and only pay for using a car when they needed to (source:

By 2005 the demand was nationwide, and so has grown to be a substantial car sharing service across Australia. GoGet is a great example of a sharing economy with positive environmental outcomes through reducing car ownership.

Unfortunately for outer suburban dwellers, a quick peep at their ‘find a car’ service indicates that the service is great for inner city, urban locations. But if you have a neighbourhood of keen people, you can ‘register your interest’ for a GoGet Pod near you.

MeeMeep: for when you need larger stuff moved

Launched in 2012, MeeMeep helps consumers find the most economic and efficient transport option to move or deliver larger goods.

Simply by tapping in to the fact that there are a lot of vehicles always on the move that may have enough room to deliver parcels or goods to consumers, MeeMeep offers a people to people courier service.

If you have just bought say, a bulky white-good like a new oven or want to get a birthday gift to someone quickly, you simply register your details with and then post a job. You then receive offers from ‘MeeMeepers’ (couriers) that are heading in the vicinity of your parcel’s destination. You then choose a courier based on their customer reviews and pricing, and your parcel is on its way. Mee Meep!

Find out more – MeeMeep > How it works.

There are loads more services to explore

These five are only a sprinkling of the incredible range of services available to people like you. Here is the most comprehensive list we could find of Australian collaborative consumption services – Collaborative consumption in Australia.

This article first appeared on the blog for Retirement Communities Australia a leading manager of Retirement Villages in Melbourne.

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