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Lured by income and flexibility, retirees becoming Uber drivers

Inside the growing sharing economy

Some retired American workers, who have left the traditional labor pool, have found a creative way to supplement their incomes by joining the ever-growing sharing economy. Their third act? Uber drivers.

The sharing economy—bolstered by high-flying start-ups including Uber, Airbnb and Lyft—allows individuals to share products and services like offering homes and apartments for rent or driving passengers to destinations. The small tasks are brokered through mobile smartphone apps. As some of these start-ups and local officials work out rules and regulations, savvy retirees are busy wedging their way into the new economy.

Judith Gordon, an Uber driver in Phoenix, Arizona, is 69 and drives up to 50 hours a week.
Source: Roger Denman
Judith Gordon, an Uber driver in Phoenix, Arizona, is 69 and drives up to 50 hours a week.
"I had a dream that I could do this and make good money." -Judith Gordon, Uber driver in Phoenix

Judith Gordon, an Uber driver in Phoenix, was an unlikely recruit for the sharing economy.

The 69-year-old retiree was scouring ads on Craigslist, when she saw a posting in the transportation section to be an Uber driver. She was intrigued.

"I mulled it over for three months, then had a dream that I could do this and make good money," Gordon said.

Now Gordon, who formerly worked in the insurance and banking industries, is driving up to 50 hours a week. She's been driving for 17 months and can earn up to $850 a week or more, she said.

"It's my pastime," Gordon said. "I enjoy the social aspect and it's interesting to not know where your next destination will be."

Retirees like transportation

More American seniors are finding a retirement groove that can include extra income from work, along with income from Social Security, pensions and investments, and many have favored not only jobs at Uber, but driving 18-wheelers or school buses.

America's workforce is aging with men and women over 65 outnumbering teens for the first time since 1948. A recent report from AARP, the membership organization for those 50 and older, found nearly a third of workers in America are above 50 years old. And Uber's driver demographics are similar.

The San Francisco-based start-up said 25 percent of its drivers are over 50, and that nearly half had no prior experience in the for-hire transportation industry. The details were released in a January report on Uber drivers, also known as Uber partners.

Ride-hailing competitors Lyft and Sidecar would not disclose how many drivers they have over 50. However, Sidecar drivers' average age runs from 35 to 45, said a company spokeswoman in an email to CNBC. And according to an email from a Lyft spokeswoman, the company is seeing a "growing number of drivers over 50."

Read MoreAmerican seniors find middle-class 'sweet spot'

"We are proud to offer driver partners the flexibility they are looking for when using the Uber Platform," an Uber spokesperson told CNBC via email. "Partners often comment about the impact Uber's had on their lives including the ability to connect with their communities, stay social or earn additional income."

California ruling

It's unclear how that will be impacted by a related development Wednesday. The California labor commission ruled in favor of one Uber driver's claims that she's an employee, awarding her $4,000 in expenses related to her work. Uber has appealed the decision, and in the past has argued its drivers are contractors, not employees.

Read More California rules Uber driver is an employee

Both Uber and Lyft are battling separate lawsuits in California over how to classify its drivers. While that debate plays out in court, 64-year-old Don Eason of Hillsborough, North Carolina, is happy to be a contractor for Uber.

Don Eason is 64 and drives part-time for Uber in North Carolina.
Source: Frank Nester
Don Eason is 64 and drives part-time for Uber in North Carolina.
"My wife said, 'You hate to drive, you won't last a week!'" -Don Eason, Veteran Uber driver in North Carolina

Eason has been retired for three years, and read an article in 2014 about Uber in a newspaper that piqued his interest. As a former entrepreneur, Eason owned a sports bar for 13 years and being and managing his own work and schedule as an independent driver was a smooth transition.

Read MoreTaxi drivers fight back against Uber and Lyft

"My wife said, 'You hate to drive, you won't last a week!' " Eason recalled. "But now I drive between 30 and 35 hours a week—only during the daytime."

He said he earns up to $650 a week driving, and he and his wife have been able to travel with the extra cash. Above all, he's enjoying his new gig, freedom and lifestyle.

Said Eason, "I'm retired, so I'm not out chasing the money."