Why pensioners are ‘unretiring’ and joining the freelancing economy

Recently, Chris Farrell wrote on the HBR that the gig economy will benefit baby boomers more than the millennials. This is not surprising at all. With the rise of gig platforms and shared economy, we can anticipate a large number of retirees getting back to work as freelancers.

When we think of freelancing and the gig economy, most of us think of young professionals who work on a laptop out of a café in Berlin or LA. But there are more and more retired professionals who are joining this freelancing world either because they want to have to in order to make ends meet or they want to keep doing what they love and enjoy. 

Source: pixabay.com

Source: pixabay.com

According to a statistic published by JPMorgan Chase Institute, the percentage of seniors on labor platforms and capital platforms are 28% and 11.5% respectively. Yes, the boomers are already participating and contributing actively to the sharing and gig economy and it is likely more will join soon. Many retired people want to stay active, earn some money but also yearn to have freedom and flexibility to see their friends and grand-children.

My father for instance retired 2 years ago as a physician in Germany after 35 years of owning his own doctor’s office in Munich. He enjoys spending time seeing art shows and his two grandsons. But he also has some private patients that keep him busy for a few hours a week. He wants to continue helping people with the hard earned skills that he practiced all his life and it is great that he can stay active and earn some extra cash. 


A few months ago, I was in a taxi in London (yes not an Uber, not sure why that happened?) and was driven by a 70-year-old Englishman. He was fantastic; sharing stories about London and its landmarks that was more insightful than any tour guide I had in London. “Why did he keep working?” I asked. He likes it he said. It keeps him young and useful.

I believe part of this phenomenon of un-retired pensioners has to do with a much increased health and life expectancy that hasn't been matched with societal norms. For one generation, it was normal to work until 65 and then you’d spend 5-10 years walking in the park and feeding birds. Nowadays, there is even a University of the Third Age where pensioners start learning new skills and languages. My wife Federica has taught there and she loved their curiosity and willingness to learn new things. 


But there are also reasons of necessity that drive elderly people back to work. One acquaintance of my family had to go back to work as a secretary at the age of 67. She found a part-time gig at a law firm and is temping there. She is happy but it wasn't her choice but rather bad circumstances of divorce and a bad saving plan that forced her to look for jobs and gigs.

But whatever the reason, I am always amazed at the wealth of knowledge and skills that these pensioners bring back into the business world by solving technical competitions on InnoCentive or being a part-time doctor for the town, or guiding young entrepreneurs in their business growth.


We need you ladies and gentlemen.  It is the best time to unretire.  Continue sharing your wisdom, knowledge and skills. The world certainly needs it!