My extended family has loads of skill sets and garages full of equipment. They’re either professional electricians, plumbers, carpenters or mechanics or else they know enough about it not to wind up in the ER.
They’ll drywall or paint or landscape or bring over their log-splitters. They’ll help you wrestle a heating oil storage tank into place, or wire a surround-sound system for your man-cave. They’ll cut down a tree or spread bark mulch or dig a hole right where you want it.
It’s a loose system of favor-trading. You need something, you ask. The guy or gal who can do it will eventually ask for something in return. Nobody keeps score. It all evens out – and even if it isn’t strictly “fair,” everyone is pretty happy with the arrangement.
I miss that kind of networking. Then again, I’m the one who moved away. It’s my own fault if I have to hire someone to do the kind of thing cousin Denny would have traded for.
A niche business opportunity
As families get smaller and relatives scatter around the country, I’m betting more work gets farmed out: Chores that require special knowledge, or that seem too overwhelming to do all by your lonesome. And if you live six states away you’ll pay some guy to clean out your elderly parents’ gutters or replace their front steps.
This is a niche business opportunity, and not just for nail-bangers. The most mundane skills could be vital to someone who is no longer able to do it himself. As the population ages, help is needed with housecleaning, rides to the doctor, yard work, grocery-shopping, bill-paying – the kind of things a son or daughter would do if he or she weren’t living a couple of thousand miles away.
If you’re unemployed, this could be a way to bring in extra dollars – or to start your own caretaking business. Sandwich-generation offspring are grateful to have some of the pressure taken off, and glad to know someone is looking in on their parents. An honest person with good references, and maybe a personal bond, could probably write his or her own ticket.
If you don’t get along with older people (we can be cranky), then don’t offer your chauffeur services. Instead, put yourself out there as a gardener, fence-painter, dog-walker, garage-organizer or whatever you do well.
It would be more than just earning a living. You would provide quality of life by helping people remain independent.
Readers: Are you caring for aging relatives as well as your own offspring? Do you do this long-distance? Have you had to hire help? Did you hire through an agency or through word of mouth?