Apr 5, 2024 - News

More D.C. seniors are doing app-based gig work

Illustration of an elderly person holding a phone on which the screen is made of a $100 bill.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

D.C.-area seniors are turning to gig work to stay active and make ends meet as living costs jump.

The big picture: Swaths of older folks retired during Covid, but some have picked up part-time work thanks to the flexibility and prevalence of apps like Uber or Lyft.

  • Making extra money was the most common driving factor when older people turned to gig or independent work, according to a 2023 AARP survey of U.S. workers over age 40. The second most common was flexibility, and staying active was the third.
  • Many older people are struggling financially amid inflation and rising care costs.

Dwight Longus, 72, a retired delivery driver, began driving for DoorDash a year ago because he was struggling to make ends meet with his Social Security and D.C.'s high costs.

  • "Eventually I'd like to lay back and just work around the house or whatever, but right now I have to push on," he says.

Zoom out: This comes as people live longer and our population ages, but as older people are more likely to put off retirement and stay in the workforce.

  • 32% of people aged 65 to 69 have a job, up from less than a quarter in 2020, says a Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis report.
  • The number of U.S. workers aged 75 and up is expected to jump 96.5% by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And D.C. at large has an outsized app-based workforce: 9% are drivers or couriers.

What they're saying: The notion of "retirement" has changed as people live longer, says Carly Roszkowski, AARP's vice president of financial resilience programming. As people outlive their funds or simply crave routine, the ease of app-based gig work has given them another option beyond full-on retirement.

  • "[It's] a whole new non-traditional stream of work for the older audience."

By the numbers: Over 1,110 people aged 65+ DoorDash-ed in D.C. last year — up 22% from 2020, DoorDash tells Axios.

  • Between February of last year and this year, there was a 40% jump in the number of DMV Uber drivers aged 65 and up, says Uber. There was a 45% jump between February 2022 and February 2023.
  • 19% of D.C. Lyft drivers were 55 and older in 2022 — up from 16% in 2019, Lyft tells Axios.

Meanwhile, 26% of people 50+ surveyed participated in independent, gig, or freelance work, found AARP.

Zoom in: D.C. resident Ellie Ellie Kilcline, 74, retired over a decade ago and began boarding dogs via the pet-walking app Rover in 2017.

  • She likes the flexibility of dictating her own schedule, and that the app gets her out of the house. "Unstructured time is not good in retirement," she says.

Yes, but: Older folks aren't flooding the apps. Most people 50+ working independently are doing contract or freelance work — not services like pet care or driving, says AARP.

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