Older person driving

Many senior living residents who order a car through new ride-hailing options from Uber and Lyft may find a fellow older adult behind the steering wheel.

An increasing number of seniors are supplementing their income “in non-trivial amounts” by participating in the “gig economy,” also known as the online platform economy, which includes ride-hailing and other services, according to new research by the JPMorgan Chase Institute. The institute reached its conclusions after analyzing data on millions of anonymized Chase customers.

Among all Uber drivers, 24% are aged 50 or more years and 3% formerly were retired, the JPMorgan Chase Institute said, citing a 2015 Uber report.

Overall, about 0.9% of adults aged at least 65 years participate in the gig economy as providers, compared with 3.1% of the general population, according to the new report. The United States has more than 47 million seniors, so this percentage translates to more than 400,000 seniors participating in the gig economy, the institute noted.

Older adults are more likely to seek income from so-called labor platforms such as Uber, Lyft and TaskRabbit than from so-called capital platforms such as eBay or Airbnb, according to the report. Also, seniors who participated in labor platforms received a bigger share of their total income from them than did seniors who participated in capital platforms (28% versus 11.5%, respectively). Seniors who participated in online platforms, on average, relied on them for income more than did younger adults who participated, the report authors stated.

The flexible work schedules permitted by such work makes it attractive to older adults, according to the report, and therefore, it is quite possible that senior participation in the gig economy will continue to grow. In the future, policymakers should consider ways to protect and promote the welfare of older adults and others who earn income via the gig economy, the institute recommended, noting that social safety net programs and tax withholding often are not available to gig economy workers, because they are considered independent contractors rather than employees.

Meanwhile, new data from the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at The New School for Social Research in New York City maintains that 29.1% of adults aged 55 or more years work in jobs that pay less than two-thirds of the median wage, which was $880 per week in July. The statistic is evidence that the historically low unemployment rate for older workers reported on Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics overstates the strength of the labor market for older workers, according to the center. The center is calling for policies to facilitate retirement security for older adults.