SAN DIEGO — Older Americans are increasingly turning towards gig work, as flexibility and autonomy in one’s job have become top requirements for job-seekers, a new AARP survey of those age 40 and older found.

A primary reason for this change, the survey says, is that there is a greater priority for older workers on flexibility and autonomy, as a little more than half of respondents are also a caregiver to a loved one — such as a parent or a spouse.

Approximately 79% of survey participants said that flexible work hours are now a job requirement when looking at prospective employers, while about 66% say they would only accept a new job if remote or hybrid work was a possibility.

The survey also found that a little more than a quarter of all older workers are currently working jobs where they could be their own boss including as a freelancer or gig employee. The number of independent workers is even greater among those aged 40-49, with nearly a third of respondents in that age group saying they work those kinds of jobs.

This shift in attitude is in large part due to the pandemic, the survey says, as it provided older workers an opportunity to slow down and take time to re-evaluate their personal goals, retirement plans and understanding of how work fits into their life.

“During the pandemic, many people took time to re-examine their personal goals and how their job fits into their life,” Vice President of Financial Resilience Programming at AARP Carly Roszkowski said in a press release. “Given the high level of burnout that so many older workers experienced during the pandemic, especially those who are caregivers, it should come as no surprise that work-life balance has emerged as not just a priority but a requirement.”

While the survey found that older workers are increasingly emphasizing work-life balance in their job, nearly all participants expressed concerns about job stability, with about a third saying that it is likely that they will lose their job this year due to a potential economic downturn.

Age discrimination is also a worry of older workers, the survey found, with nearly two in five respondents having reported experiencing some kind of ageism at work over the last three years — a majority of which went unreported.

Almost 40% of respondents also cited ageism as a reason for lack of confidence in their ability to find jobs quickly in the current job market.

“The number of older workers is projected to grow significantly over the next decade, and understanding older workers’ needs and concerns benefits both workers and employers,” Roszkowski said in the release.