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Rent a granny?! Has the sharing economy gone too far?

Grandmother cooking

Nope, you’ve not read it wrong – older, wiser individuals are leading cooking classes and offering sage advice for a price. It’s a genuine ‘thing’ and is all down to the growing popularity of the sharing economy.

Lou Papé is a new app-based service seemingly taking France by storm. The technology allows those of perhaps more advanced years to offer their culinary skills either as a cookery teacher or chef. Their customers could be anyone from those looking to learn new kitchen skills to a busy couple who just want to enjoy some quality home-cooked food.

Rent a retiree

Now, I recognise that there’s potentially tonnes of social good in this app.

For one, it helps connect what could be a big isolated group of senior citizens with a whole other generation that could frankly learn a lot – not just about traditional cooking, but life in general.

While it seems like a good idea to connect these people in a structured way, it does, however, leave me wondering whether the sharing economy is going a bit too far? It’s one thing to share a taxi fare with a stranger, but it’s another to share a grandmother or grandfather…

I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be with my grandmother sharing her closely guarded recipe for chicken soup or even barmbrack. And equally, I’m not convinced I’d pay for a grandmother or grandfather to come round and cook a four course meal for me and my friends.

That said, this service is thriving in France and has just celebrated its second birthday.

Sharing economy

It would be fair to say that I’m really intrigued by the sharing economy and have used lots of useful services.

It’s not just Airbnb, Uber or Borrow My Doggy either – there are also more practical services like renting out your washing machine to someone local so they can use it when you aren’t or even in some cases, hiring out your front room for a few hours each day so someone can come and work from it. And if I had my own place then I could definitely see myself renting out my washing machine for a couple of hours.

So where do you stand on this? Would you share your washing machine for a few hours, your car or culinary skills with a complete stranger? Can you think of anything else you’d be willing to share?


I’m curious: how is this idea any different from a part-time job? Teaching (which is what it seems to be) is a perfectly normal way to earn a living, so I don’t really see a problem. And it’s in a very different class from renting out your washing machine and certainly your car.


Thanks Ian. I suppose it’s not very different from a part time job but because it’s app/ digital based, it forms part of the sharing economy. It’s the sharing of knowledge.

Curious though, would you be willing to share your washing machine or your car for a fee?


People with skills or equipment show enterprise if they make money out of lending them to other people. It is what the self employed do, part or full time. Many do hair, fix cars, decorate, garden for money. And, by the way, grannies (and grandads) can be in their 40s and many are certainly useful in the 70’s, and far from belonging to a “big isolated group of senior citizens”. Perhaps this is a bit ageist?

I think an online site that helps put people with skills in touch with those that need them is a good idea – perhaps something useful coming out of Europe.

There is another movement – men’s sheds – where like minded people – including the older members of society – get together to fix and make things. I also heard on the radio today about groups who will meet regularly in premises and fix stuff for you – computers, CD players and the like – to save something mendable being chucked when it has stopped working properly. Many older people have the skills and time to contribute to this sort of activity.

I’m all for it.


So am I malcolm and agree with your post . I put this down to the modern brainwashing of young people you now get in schools. Engineering skills are lost because engineering isnt high on females agendas even though the brain washers try to force females into those areas -so far with limited success . Facts have to be faced this is now a service industry economy males are forced into jobs , because of poverty , that females are much better at . This will only get worse as the hidden agenda is to transform this society into servile obedience to buy all things that are advertised no matter how much is complete c**p . making excuses for the massive changes in society doesn’t work humans male or female are different in mental structure in thought patterns etc its only minority groups that are trying push this and they couldn’t careless for the consequences. You might hate what I said but it wont be long to even my words are censored because I dont conform and then you know for sure this is no free society .

[Sorry Duncan, we’ve tweaked your comment to align with our Community Guidelines. Thanks, mods]


Fair point, Malcolm and I’d agree with you that people can lend their skills at any age – my grandmother teaches others of a similar age to herself to crochet and knit at a local cafe 🙂 I suppose that the difference is that it’s not an app service that’s doing the structured organising for her group as it’s a well known activity in the local community.

Just to clarify that this service and app appears market itself as a means of connecting older more isolated people in France who can share their traditional cooking skills – and appears to be fairly successful at doing so too.


I have been pleased to note that more and more female students are entering engineering courses [around 15% of the intakes now] and there are many more women in engineering roles that were closed to them for years for mostly unsustainable reasons. Female workers used to be the backbone of light manufacturing industry and their education was restricted to supplying that demand. I am glad we have moved away from that and that there is now much more equality of opportunity in all labour forces in all sectors of the economy. I have seen no evidence to support any of the assertions in the statement that “males are forced into jobs, because of poverty, that females are much better at”. Changes in workplace structures have been taking place continuously for generations for a whole range of reasons so I am not sure it is possible to be so dogmatic as that.

One of the things that struck me was the series of advertisements that Network Rail placed in the lead-up to the Easter engineering works programme, every one of them featuring a young woman engineer in charge of a particular project. This raises the profile of women in engineering and other technical occupations and will hopefully inspire future generations to pursue such careers. I have also noted in articles and documentaries how a number of the major projects within the biggest civil engineering operation in Europe, the new Crossrail railway line through London, are being led by women. They are also involved in many contracting companies designing and building infrastructure and industrial projects.

I don’t know the exact split, but unless we include public services, medical, educational and military roles in the ‘service sector’ I doubt that sector completely dominates the employment spectrum. There is still a lot of technological, manufacturing, production, agricultural, research, design, creative and maintenance employment in this country and neither sex has a monopoly on capability.


I’m happy to lend things to friends, neighbours and sometimes people I know through working with charities. Usually it’s tools. Occasionally I’ve let neighbours use my washing machine or put food in the freezer when their appliances have died. I used to occasionally lend my car to trusted friends when we were on holiday, but that was when it was insured for any driver over 25.

I would not think of asking for money if I helped someone and people help me without being paid. A friend with a large van transported the large items when I moved home last year. I have helped him with various projects over the years and enjoy using his well equipped workshop.

I’ve spent too much of my life repairing electrical stuff for others but am happy to help anyone who is prepared to try and help themselves.

I’ve not thought of enlisting the help of a granny to do catering, but recently remembered at the last minute that I had promised to do some baking for a society event. I invited a friend round to make sausage rolls while I baked a cake.

Why can’t we help each other and ask for help without thinking about money?


Very altruistic Wavechange and I really admire you . I started off on the same premise but got it thrown back in my face from people who ended up admitting they were only using me , they had no intention of being “friends ” . As the saying goes many times in Judge Judy,s Court — no good deed goes unpunished , what happens now is you get blamed for things even though you arent to blame but are just used as an excuse because of other peoples ,either incompetence , jealousy ( competing trades ) or downright sneakiness. I spend my time helping real people who need real help not actors and actresses .


From the practical advice you have given on this website, it’s clear that you enjoy helping people, Duncan, and I respect you for that. I was exploited by a few people in my early 20s but manage to avoid this by involving people in tasks, even if it’s just ordering the spares needed to do a repair. Sometimes people are not very good at returning things and I must chase a friend who has had my digital projector for six weeks. He did this once before, so I lent him an older one this time.

If you are practical then why not encourage others? It’s very rewarding to see people learning how to do jobs for themselves. Unfortunately, we live in a society that’s gone over the top with health & safety and most people have the money to replace products rather than repair them, unlike when we were young.

I fully support encouraging elderly people to use their practical skills and learn new ones, and that’s what I teach in my charity work. It helps me learn new skills too.

Meanwhile back on topic, why pay a granny to help teach cooking skills when we may know someone who would be happy to help free of charge, and we can find some practical way of helping them in return.


The gist of the intro is that “grannies” are being put in touch with strangers who need their skills. It seems perfectly reasonable for those who benefit from the skills to reward the giver – both sides gain from the transaction. If I have a retired gardener or decorator in my locality whom I’d like to do some work for me I would not expect them to do it for nothing. However, a “sharing economy” also implies that good deeds are exchanged – I’d do something in exchange without money changing hands.

Giving services between family, friends and people in need of help is another matter.

Using the skills of older people – who have built up knowledge, experience and assets – should be encouraged. Find yourself a picture or furniture restorer, someone with wood skills, or as the intro homes in on, people who can teach cookery and provide chef services.


Of course, Malcolm. I would always offer to pay someone if I was not able to return a favour. I hoped that a friend would reupholster a couple of chairs that had belonged to my grandparents, but he did not have the materials and took them to one of his friends, who I will be happy to pay.

Cooking and woodwork don’t necessarily require a lot of equipment, making it easy and rewarding to make progress. In my experience, elderly people are sometimes lonely, especially if their wife or husband has passed on and helping them use their skills is very worthwhile.


You know @malcolmr, when I first read about Lou Papé I was really against it but then I started to think about how skills and experienced gather from a lifetime can form part of the sharing economy.

I was then thinking about it in the wider world of the sharing economy and came to the conclusion that in many ways it’s no different from TaskRabbit, where you can find people like you described to restore furniture or do other tasks.

Curious though, would you be willing to rent out your washing machine for a few hours for a small fee? I’m super keen to gauge people’s attitudes as both users and also suppliers.


Tom – If you accept money for goods or services you also have legal responsibilities, I believe. Where would you stand if clothes were damaged or there was an accident.

I sometimes lend power tools, but if I accepted money they would have to be PAT-tested and inspected before each hire. I presume that those who offer services via Airbnb have to comply with the same regulations as landlords and those who run guest houses.

Patrick Taylor says:
3 May 2017

That is exactly the point WC Airbnb users do not have any legal requirements to meet and that is why they can be so cheap. The original idea of renting out a room for a night or two has morphed into a place where professional landlords and B&B also operate.

Professional landlords are now taking properties of the standard regulated rental market to make more money running quasi-hotels. This is a major problem which I have allude to previously and AFAIR provided links.


I think taking in washing and making use of your own machine would be the way I would see this working, if someone needed washing doing, rather than having someone in your home for a time using your machine themselves, unless they were friends or family.

I think there are perhaps better examples of “social sharing”. Cooking is a good one as it presumes this is done in the recipient’s home using their equipment.


We wouldn’t let other people use our washing machine but we would happily do other people’s washing without payment in an emergency or if they were in necessitous circumstances. There is a need a good method of connecting with such people.

Some years ago when we were both out at work we hired a local young woman to do a number of domestic tasks including the ironing. One day I came home early to find the iron cold but the TV hot. You have to anticipate all potential risks when letting people into your home.


As someone who owns the tiniest garden shed on the planet, I’d very much be keen on a service where I could rent someone else’s garden tools/tools and workbench. I have next to no storage and some of these things are pretty expensive to buy – it would also be useful to be taught how to properly use them too!


Lauren don’t be surprised if you are inundated with invitations to a join men shed in the near future 🙂


Tools worth using are generally very expensive (you need quite a few) and are used fairly infrequently. Sharing them on some basis makes great sense – providing the user knows how to use them (woodworking tools is what I have in mind). Lawnmower, hedge trimmer, shredder, circular saw, concrete mixer (I still have the one I bought to build my garage and lay house floors), router, electric hammer, angle grinder, carpet cleaner……….the list goes on of useful stuff some of us accumulate. A tool library run by and for the local small community would fill the need with individuals lending their equipment (and maybe skills). I expect it could be hampered by insurance but some umbrella organisation might sort the formalities out.

Patrick Taylor says:
3 May 2017

I suspect I am now in an area where these things happen and I will be reciprocating by supplying books and copies of Private Eye. I have been lent a rotovator – rather a nice one. It is quite useful but not really butch enough so I am going to go for a two-wheeled tractor with flail, power plough, and a harrow.

I reckon I will really work those Gro-bags now. : )

As for tools I have always believed in buying the right hand or power tool for the job and eventually have owned places big enough to store them , unfortunately not in any useful order until now. It is gratifying when you need a sledgehammer and can choose the right weight hammer for that job.

Having room to store things is an interesting matter as people forget we live in the smallest houses in Europe. If this was not enough conversions of offices to flats is not constrained by current laws on minimum size for accomodation. That of course is being taken full advantage of by developers.

” We build the smallest new homes in Europe, significantly smaller than 100 years ago. This is not because of pressure on land: a 2007 Riba survey found the average floor space of a new dwelling in England and Wales was 76 sq m, against 81.5 sq m in Italy, 92 sq m in Japan and 115 sq m in Holland, all as densely populated. It’s because builders make more money that way – and, perhaps, because we are the only EU country not to have minimum-space standards for the homes we live in.”

” Plans for Barnet House, used by the London borough of Barnet’s housing department, reveal that 96% of the 254 proposed flats will be smaller than the national minimum space standards of 37 sq metres (44 sq yards) for a single person. The tiniest homes will be 16 sq metres – 40% smaller than the average Travelodge room. “