The sharing economy at the service of promoting active ageing: the case of the European Colabor-Active project.

Over recent decades, the progressive ageing of the world’s population has been the subject of debate in several international organisations – such as the United Nations – mainly due to the impact of two simultaneous phenomena: low birth rate and increased life expectancy. The number of older people is expected to experience a substantial increase in all countries worldwide.

According to the forecasts of the 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects, by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over 65 years of age (16%). Faced with this irreversible phenomenon, the European Union has developed an active and healthy ageing policy Active Ageing (AA) as a means of addressing this inevitable increase in the over-60 population.

So what exactly is active and healthy ageing? The World Health Organisation has defined it as ‘the process of optimising opportunities in the field of health, participation and safety in order to improve the quality of life of people as they get older.’ It is considered to be, therefore, a way of unlocking the potential of older people by fostering their continued social engagement. One of the main pillars of active ageing is, without a doubt, social participation. Social participation today, however, can have several faces given the influence of new information and communication technologies in this area. 

The emergence of new information and communication technologies (ICT) in recent years has led to a complete transformation of society in several areas. One of these is, without a doubt, economic activity where the classic forms of supplying goods and services have undergone a major transformation. Examples of this are the so-called platform economy and digital platforms. These platforms have made it possible to carry out new transactions in which, for example, clients (consumers) and providers (businesses) can make contact in the search for new commercial agreements (B2C); consumers can meet other consumers (C2C); and businesses can meet other businesses to outsource functions (B2B). 

Similarly, in recent years, a new way of selling goods has emerged under the name of the Sharing Economy. Both online – through the Internet – and in person, sharing economy models focus on the supply of goods and services at a price significantly lower than the market. In other cases, they are simply based on the exchange of services, similar to bartering, such as time banks. This last case in particular can be categorised as the Not-For-Profit Sharing Economy (NFPSE), since there is no economic gain and it works as if it were a C2C model.

Although in recent times there has been some controversy around this new form of trading, in particular regarding employment issues in connection to the emergence of companies such as Uber, Cabify, Glovo and Deliveroo, it, together with digital platforms, can provide a wide range of benefits to society.

This opportunity has been captured by the European Colabor-Active project, funded by the European Commission under the Erasmus+ Programme, with the aim of exploring the potential of digital platforms and the sharing economy in promoting ageing in five European countries: Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Spain. To this end, the Colabor-Active project has designed a training course to promote the social participation of older people through digital platforms. The older people involved in the project participated in both the design and development of the course through the co-creation methodology used in the project. In other words, the training course was designed ‘for’ and ‘with’ older people in order to offer tailored training capable of satisfying their needs both in the areas of active ageing and collaborative skills in each country. In this way, a variety of topics were addressed in the training course to improve their digital skills and awareness of civic engagement and social participation. 

With the aim of checking the effectiveness of the training, a number of pilot sessions were held where an average of 20 older people per country attended. These actions have revealed the potential benefits that the Not-For-Profit Sharing Economy (NFPSE) can bring to older people. Firstly, the Not-For-Profit Sharing Economy (NFPSE) can not only improve the quality of life of older people by providing them with certain services that they may need for free, but also contribute to the improvement of their social relations and social inclusion. Last but not least, this initiative can also help to highlight the attributes of older people, such as inspiration, leadership, wisdom and tradition, in a society that overvalues youth.


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