How The Gig Economy Could Aid Planning for Older Adult and Disability Services in Georgia

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

It is well-known that the baby-boom generation is aging, with about 10,000 individuals turning 65 each day. This generation has the longest life expectancy to date and benefits from advances in health care and technology. However, this generation is also more disabled, dealing with more chronic health conditions and managing more prescription medications than previous generations.

Planning for the state’s population of older adults and individuals with disabilities is one of the responsibilities of the Georgia Department of Human Services, Division of Aging Services. On a four-year cycle, the state seeks community input to develop the state’s strategic plan. The state is seeking input through public hearings and a Web-based survey from stakeholders that include older adults, individuals with disabilities, caregivers, pre-retirees and service providers. The Georgia Health Policy Center at Georgia State University is assisting the state in collecting and organizing stakeholder feedback.

Business pressures, movement to a digital world and a desire for greater flexibility have led to changes in how people work, including the rise of the gig economy, with freelancers and consultants taking short-term employment opportunities. By 2020, estimates suggest 40 percent of the workforce will be made up of contract workers. Mobile apps are also changing the way restaurant meals and groceries are delivered, how we hail rides and how we shop.

How does this technological evolution affect the state as it seeks input and begins planning services, policies and initiatives for 2019–22? It potentially provides a space for innovation. Some of the services we are familiar with, such as home-delivered meals, were authorized under the Older Americans Act in 1965. The growing demand for services, combined with the technological revolution and the gig economy produce opportunities for new approaches to serving those who need support, now and in the future.

An example of such alignment comes from a recent test case conducted in Georgia. As a mother and advocate for her daughter who has a disability, Carol* relocated to Atlanta about a year ago.

Carol’s daughter lives independently and receives transportation services funded by a Georgia Medicaid waiver. Carol sought to identify viable transportation services using Medicaid waiver funding for individuals with disabilities specific to individuals who receive supportive employment services and need transportation to and from work. Carol worked diligently to spark partnerships with Billy Snider, the partnerships manager with the rideshare service Lyft, Inc. and a fiscal intermediary in Georgia. Through multiple conference calls, emails and meetings, Snider found a way to make it possible for Carol’s daughter to access the Lyft, with Medicaid as the payer.

Based on Carol’s experience, it is possible to see how innovation can improve the lives of those needing services. Taking calculated risks in piloting and investing in innovative approaches will forge paths to create new partnerships that enable Georgia’s elderly residents with disabilities to live longer in a community setting, and ultimately have a better quality of life.

If you would like to share ideas for innovation that will inform the state’s strategic plan, you can complete a Web-based survey or attend a public hearing.

By Kristi Fuller, Georgia Health Policy Center