The use of technology networks is on the increase all over the world, even when it comes to the most everyday activities, such as shopping, paying the bills, as well as opportunities to hire, rent out, exchange, or share products on a previously unimaginable scale. The rise in the sharing economy platforms is increasing the range of products and services on offer; in fact, more than half of all EU citizens are familiar with the sharing economy and one in six people is already using it (Euro-barometer, 2016).
Ten years ago, the Time magazine published an article, in which they argued the sharing economy was one of ten initiatives that would change the world. “…… ,” says …. from the … Consumers’ Association. What is considered ‘old’ by one person is ‘new’ to someone else, so instead of throwing it away, we can exchange it for something else or gift it to someone. By buying less and only buying what we need and when we need it, our shelves and basements will be much less cluttered and there will be less waste and more satisfaction.
Not everyone has the skills or resources to be present in the digital world
The mentioned activities often require knowledge of the digital environment. However, as the proportion of elderly people is rising, so do the risks of social exclusion – it is not uncommon for people to be unable to afford basic goods and services or pay a lot (too much) to get them (for instance, online banking etc.) due to the growing complexity of the market and because they may not have the necessary digital skills.
Lack of participation may result from lack of trust
When exchanging goods or services, getting them at a fraction of the original price or only covering the cost takes place directly between consumers in a peer-to-peer fashion, most often through an online platform, trust between people is essential, it is, however, often put to the test.
Mutual trust between people who do not know one other is the most important component of the phenomenon of sharing economy. Without trust as the foundation, it is very difficult to attract a sufficient number of people (i.e. to reach a large enough critical mass) who are willing to participate in the initiative to make it successful. The most successful systems have incorporated effective mechanisms to ensure trust between providers and consumers, such as the Reference System on the CouchSurfing platform or giving reviews (feedback) on eBay. The Slovenian car-sharing (carpooling) platform prevoz.org also allows reviewing drivers and thus contributes to making sure there are as few unreliable drivers as possible. By creating such mechanisms, the platforms earn user trust, thus increasing the number of people who take part in it (and increasing the number of transactions through the platform).
Various organisations across Slovenia provide the elderly with opportunities to acquire digital skills. If this would help one of your loved ones or acquaintances become socially active again, help them find an appropriate course after the COVID-19 risk is over, and present them all the opportunities this will afford them. Elderly people have a wealth of knowledge and can be those who acquire as well as those who provide. Perhaps exchanging services is the best first step – foreign language tutoring in exchange for digging the garden, pruning or washing windows. The possibilities are endless.
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