For George Cameron, a 65-year-old former marine in Mechanicsville, Virginia, retirement was not all it cracked up to be. Chiefly, it was dull. “Although I’ve got a few community things I’m involved in,” Cameron says, “I sit at home and listen to the news. And my wife says I’m getting too close to the dog.”
At the end of August, Cameron re-entered the workforce after four years of retirement. His new job is driving for Uber. Cameron gets in the car in the mid-afternoon and works until late around the Richmond area. He is spending 50 hours a week behind the wheel.
The gig economy is thought to be dominated by younger workers. But the factors that make it attractive to millennials—few barriers to entry, flexible commitments—may be starting to pull in older Americans.
“You make your own hours, start when you want, stop when you want, and get breaks whenever you feel like,” says Paul Grossman, a 74-year-old former tour operator who has been driving for Lyft in the Bay Area for 22 months. “It’s something to do; you can’t sit around at home. And it pay the bills.”
For companies, too, the cohort is an attractive target. For one thing, as Teresa Ghilarducci recently explained on this site, it’s suspected that the unemployment rate among Americans over 55 is actually much higher than reported. San Jose, capital of Silicon Valley, actually has the highest unemployment rate of Americans over 55. Yet seniors are underrepresented among the independent contractors who form the backbone of companies like Airbnb (only 10 percent of Airbnb hosts, for example, are over 60).