Seattle seniors turn to Airbnb to stay in their homes and meet new people

Home sharing creates a powerful connection between visitors to Seattle and hosts who make them feel like they belong in the Emerald City.

The concept of home sharing is not new. It’s been around for a long time. Through Airbnb, more people are discovering the practice and opening their homes to people from around the world.

In Seattle, senior citizens are the fastest growing group of hosts. The number of hosts ages 60 to 90 grew 75% from 2015 to 2016.

There are two powerful reasons behind this growth.

Home sharing helps many seniors afford to stay in their homes and earn extra money, which is particularly meaningful for hosts living on fixed incomes. Many seniors also find hosting on Airbnb creates new social connections. Hosts are meeting people from all over the world without ever leaving home.

It turns out, visitors to Seattle like staying with seniors. Hosts ages 60 to 90 have the highest percentage of five star reviews.

Making ends meet. A typical senior-hosted listing in Seattle is booked about 110 days per year. The extra money earned hosting helps many seniors pay their bills, fix up their homes and even take trips themselves.

Nationally, 41% of seniors have reported hosting has helped them afford to stay in the homes where they’ve often lived much of their lives.

Betsy B., 78, started listing a spare bedroom in her West Seattle home to earn extra money.

“My mortgage is going up so it’s almost to the point where I was considering moving to something that’s less expensive,” she said. “But I thought if I have some guests in my house, I’ll probably be able to stay here for another five years.”

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For Elizabeth C., 68, keeping up with the cost of living in Seattle on a fixed income is a challenge. Without the extra money she earns from listing her guest room on Airbnb, she wouldn’t be able to stay in her Crown Hill home. It also helps Elizabeth pay other bills.

“I wouldn’t be able to afford the medicines that I need if Airbnb didn’t function through my life the way that it does,” she said.

Meeting new people. Hosting brings the world to the doors of seniors when they can no longer travel themselves. In fact, 28 percent of senior hosts noted that the primary reason they host is to meet new people, and 15 percent of hosts welcome guests into their home primarily to keep themselves active.

Betsy, for example, started hosting for financial reasons, but she has come to enjoy meeting people from all over the world, including China, New Zealand and Iran.

Some of her guests, from cities like Washington DC and Chicago, have stayed at Betsy’s home while moving to Seattle in order to try out her neighborhood.