Seniors relying on Airbnb and home sharing: What this means for providers

Stephanie Jackson | Housing Options, Aging in Place, | April 25, 2017

As baby boomers enter retirement, more of this generation is thinking about senior living situations outside of assisted living communities or relocating to typical retirement destinations like Arizona or Florida.

The fact is, many people want to stay near their hometown and maintain a sense of community once they enter the senior years. According to an AARP survey, 69 percent of respondents indicated they preferred to stay in their home and be near the locales they grew up in. These results make a lot of sense: Seniors want to be near their grandkids, sons and daughters, and lifelong friends, and as the old adage goes, "There's no place like home."

However, living on your own presents a lot of challenges once you age, both personally and financially. That's why a lot of seniors have turned to home sharing and Airbnb to overcome a lot of these obstacles.

"Home sharing helps seniors financially and offers a sense of community."

Mortgage debt and seniors: Looking at the numbers
After the 2008 housing bubble, it became clear that owning your home and maintaining a mortgage was going to require navigating certain obstacles moving forward. When you're a retired senior relying on savings, Social Security, and if you're lucky, retirement funds, the bank account is usually running low for most after the mortgage is paid every month. What's more, AARP highlighted a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Board stating that median mortgage debt for seniors increased by a stunning 82 percent between 2001 and 2011.

Home sharing: A new solution for senior living
Because of these skyrocketing costs, a lot of seniors are renting out rooms, or in some cases, their whole homes, on Airbnb and other home-sharing sites to pay the bills and still stay in their homes. In fact, Airbnb even put out a report showing that older Americans have earned nearly $750 million from relying on services through Airbnb, and seniors over 60 are the fastest-growing demographic for the company.

Others are turning to local shared housing programs that now exist in more than 20 states, according to Bankrate. Not only do these programs help reduce rent and mortgage payments, but they also curb loneliness and allow seniors to age in place: A win-win situation all around.

What providers need to know
As a home health provider, it is important to be even more mindful of these housing trends as baby boomers continue to enter retirement. It's likely that as home-sharing technology becomes more advanced and companies like Airbnb become the norm, more seniors will be looking to these types of arrangements as a long-term housing solution. 

With your patients likely living with other seniors or in home-sharing situations, you will need to be understanding of their living arrangements. Schedules might change and your visits might need to be held in these type of environments moving forward.

The home health sector is also becoming increasingly tech-friendly to keep up with these demands, so look to apps to help you organize your appointments and better communicate with patients who may be utilizing home-sharing services.