Unable to retire, Tampa Bay seniors turn to Uber | Florida News

By HANNAH CRITCHFIELD, Tampa Bay Times

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Donna Durham has spent her life on the move. A career truck driver, she found herself craving the road when she retired and missed the camaraderie with others.

But there’s another reason she became an Uber driver.

“I needed some extra income,” said Durham, who is 67. “Trying to live off Social Security is just not an option. I think that’s probably a lot of older people’s problem.

As costs rise, some seniors have turned to gig driver apps like Uber or Lyft to afford life in Tampa Bay.

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Florida, home to not one but three fountains of youth, has long been a magnet for older people. Tampa Bay is no exception.

For decades, St. Petersburg has been called “God’s waiting room” due to its large retiree population, and Tampa was voted one of the top ten “best places to retire in the United States” in 2022. .

But it’s more expensive than ever to live here in the wake of the pandemic.

“The perception of life in Florida and the reality of life in Florida are two different ends of the spectrum,” said Yvonne Brockington, 51, a Safety Harbor resident who lost her full-time job in November. “I work so much here it’s not even funny.”

Brockington now drives 40 hours for Uber on weekends. She has a teenage son, a mortgage, car payments.

“The price of everything is going up,” she said. “All weekend, I drive or I sleep.”

She will continue to drive for Uber even after finding a full-time job, she said.

“I have to pay for my house if I ever retire,” Brockington said. “I don’t have a pension to fall back on. I’m just – I’m screwed. So I need a roof over my head.

Older adults make up a high share of concert conductors in Tampa Bay.

Twenty-nine percent of Lyft drivers in the region are over the age of 50, compared to a quarter of Lyft drivers nationwide, according to data provided by the company.

About 17% of Uber drivers in Tampa Bay are 55 or older, said Javier Correoso, an Uber spokesman, compared to 16% nationwide. Five percent of these drivers are 65 or older, which puts them firmly at retirement age.

Durham collects $718 from Social Security a month, but that’s not enough to cover all of her expenses, she said. Durham owns his mobile home, but not the land on which it is firmly anchored. The rent went up last year.

“It’s really tough,” said Durham, who drives for both Lyft and Uber. “I have car insurance. I have a car payment. Electricity, phones, all that.

Labor itself becomes more expensive. There are costs that come with being a driver – most need to have ride-sharing insurance, in addition to regular car insurance, to cover accidents that happen while transporting a passenger.

Gas prices remain a constant source of concern for carpool drivers.

“The gas is killing us,” said Linda Swanson, a 61-year-old Uber driver who lives in Pinellas Park. “With rising inflation, tips are also falling.”

For some seniors, driving for Uber or Lyft has a different appeal: It’s guaranteed time with others.

“I needed to get out of the house,” said Joseph Size, 80, a Plant City resident who started driving for Uber after his wife died two years ago. “She had a lingering illness and I was very busy with it all. I was there at the end of it all, just sitting here, retired and looking for something to do.

After COVID-19 was first discovered in Florida, other senior concert conductors sought to avoid social interactions.

“I went from having passengers in the car and went to UberEATS,” said 78-year-old Seminole resident Nevin Overmiller. “And that was great, because people didn’t want to leave their house.”

Staying safe along the way remains a challenge for many in the pandemic.

On New Year’s Eve, a usually very lucrative day for rideshare drivers, Durham was hospitalized with chest pains. Doctors told her she had tested positive for COVID-19.

“I’m very, very careful – I clean the car, I give them hand wipes,” said Durham, who lives alone and said she doesn’t interact with others outside of work. “But that’s the only thing I could think of – that I got it from a passenger.”

She will continue to drive after being released and recovered, she said. She can’t give up.

“You have to protect yourself as best you can, that’s all you can do,” Durham said.

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