Earning money over 60: A side hustle as a support worker

Jan 17, 2023
Source: Getty

We have been lucky enough to enjoy some informative and excellent articles about the opportunities for those over sixties looking for part-time work on this site. This is my personal experience that hopefully will be of value to anyone who is considering taking up work as a support worker.

With recent changes to government allowances, pensioners can earn a few thousand dollars more ($4000 in the 2022-23 financial year) than was possible before without it affecting their pensions.

And so, now might be the time to take advantage of some flexible work or “side hustles” amongst the full-time working population.

I finally took the plunge at 60, giving up full-time work to attempt to write a novel and some children’s books.

In order to achieve that dream, I had to find an income to provide some day-to-day pocket money that could work around my life commitments and writing schedule.

I thought that having brought up three children and caring for elderly parents I could contribute to a “caring” community with some degree of certainty in a meaningful way.

I signed up, wrote my profile, and within days was getting offers of work.  

I did initially get excited when up popped an offer for “Lighthouse cleaning,” although I was not necessarily looking for cleaning work, was thrilled about the thought of cleaning a Lighthouse…of course, it was actually domestic house cleaning, and there is plenty of that available.

There is also transportation, company, gardening, meal preparation, personal care, organisation, admin and help required for every age group from children to very elderly people with varying health requirements.

You can pick your hours, and your rate (as long as it falls within the NDIS allowance or the various “care packages” that are on offer).

The joys of working like this are that you get to choose when you want to work, and after the initial meet and greets–which are usually free of charge so you can both assess whether the relationship will work – you can then go forward with both parties with proper expectations in place. 

It’s very important to set clear parameters on both sides from the get-go.

In my case, I have been extremely lucky.  

The families that I work with have been wonderful.  Everything from a sweet, feisty 94-year-old lady that I provide a nice meal and company for, to an autistic teenager who needs transportation to her special education school, and a whole range of individuals in between.

I’ve had my challenges with a client with advanced non-verbal dementia who I eventually had to give up on because their behaviour became dangerous to both themselves and me.  

And felt extreme sadness with another elderly client living in poverty who was the first person I worked with.  She was understandably bitter and angry at the life she had ended up in. It was a steep learning curve, but it only took a little kindness for her to mellow.

However, they were the exception. As generally, the fact is, you are overwhelmingly thanked for your support and helping people out gives you a feeling of involvement in society and our communities. Both things have been consistently proven as a great way to help us age well.

And the families are grateful for the support, so you feel like you are making a difference. 

There are a few horror stories I have heard where funds have run out from care packages and workers were not being paid for work, they had done. And the system needs some improvement on that score. 

It is very much focused on you checking for yourself what the situation is with your potential clients’ care package in the initial stages.  Most situations seem to run smoothly.  In my case, I have never had a problem. 

You must also remember that if you are ill, your client is ill, or on holiday you won’t get paid as you are a “sole trader” with all that implies.

That means your income can vary widely, so it’s not particularly reliable if you need to use it to pay regular bills.

However, if you are looking for something to give you a few well-paid hours of work a week, with people that you choose to work with, doing work that suits you, it may very well be worth a try.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the six months that I’ve worked with some lovely people.  I’m now concentrating a bit harder on the books so doing less support work, but it has proved a very good stopgap.

Today, my 94-year-old and I went out for lunch and had a beautiful time with lots of laughs. I get to hear stories that I missed out on with my grandma who has long since passed.

And yes, it’s not all sunshine and roses. There’s a lot of patience that is often required but all in all, it has been a satisfying and wonderful opportunity that is worth considering.

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up