The future belongs to the young. And the future of work, endless articles and think pieces have explained, is the gig economy.

The forces of technology and global change are disrupting traditional work, causing more and more of us to piece together a living from various gigs. We're staring at the rise of the gig economy, and as Fast Company explained a few years back, young, agile, adaptable "Generation Flux" is poised to surf this change to a new type of career.

That's the standard story anyway. But there's one minor problem -- in truth the so-called gig economy is being embraced by Boomers as much as Millennials. (Another minor problem, but one for another post, is that no one can agree exactly how big the gig economy is, though apparently the government is finally taking steps to find out.)

Is driving an Uber the new retirement?

"Everyone thinks the gig economy is for Millennials--Uber and Lyft drive-sharing services, AirBnB home rentals and the like. But if you ask me, the gig economy (aka the sharing economy and the on-demand economy) is far better suited to boomers," writes Chris Farrell on Next Avenue. The gig economy he feels "is an ideal way for boomers to bolster their income during their unretirement years."

His article goes on to profile Sue Johnson, a 74-year-old Uber driver, as a prime example of seniors who are embracing the flexibility and additional income of gigging. "It's nice to be able to say: 'Yes, I can meet you for lunch' or to be able to be home with a sick grandchild," Johnson says of her lifestyle.

What the numbers say

Plucky, silver-haired Johnson behind the wheel of her Mazda makes for inspirational reading, but she's only one woman. Do the numbers back up Farrell's claim that older Americans are embracing in the gig economy? "Uber says more of its drivers are over 50 than under 30 and that about a quarter of its drivers are 50 and older," Farrell points out, but there is also additional data to support his claims.

When consulting firm Emergent Research teamed up with Intuit to look into the gig economy recently, they "found about 18 percent of all ODE [on-demand economy, AKA gig economy] workers are aged 55 or older. This means despite being seen as a workplace for millennials, mature ODE workers (aged 55+) are roughly equally represented in the ODE workforce as in the overall workforce." The research revealed older Americans were turning to the gig economy for flexibility, supplemental income, and a means to stay engaged and social -- just as Farrell argues.

"The numbers of older Americans seeking gig work will likely continue to grow," concludes the Emergent Research blog post on the findings.

Do you see seniors participating in the gig economy with as much enthusiasm as their kids and grandkids?

Published on: Feb 2, 2016
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