VOL. 116 | NO. 241 | Monday, December 16, 2002
Old means gold in tight labor market
Old still means gold in tight labor market
By MARY DANDO
The Daily News
For most people, this years
economic slide has been a bit like watching a car wreck from the passenger
seat. For retirees or those nearing retirement, the experience has been
The stock market freefall,
corporate shenanigans and the fallout from the terrorist attacks have taken
their toll on investment portfolios and savings, and are sending some retirees
back into the work force.
About 24 percent of todays
retirees are working, but that number could grow as nest eggs continue to
One local organization is
focused on making the move back to work easier for seniors.
Senior Services of Memphis is
a United Way agency that began as a small senior center in 1961. Over the years,
its programs have evolved to include a number of services that help children
and the elderly throughout the Memphis area. The agency offers two programs for
older workers: a federally funded employment program for low-income individuals
and a job referral service.
Carolyn Stearnes, vice
president of the family support services division of Senior Services, is in
charge of both programs.
Stearnes said the agency has
not seen a dramatic increase in the number of seniors seeking employment in the
last year. However, the agency is witnessing a repeat of a situation that
occurred during the last major economic slump.
What were seeing now, which
we saw maybe 10 or 12 years ago in times of an economic downturn, is an
increase in the number of people who were just a few years away from retirement
who have been laid off, she said.
Due to the continuing
sluggish economy, they have seen their 401(k)s dwindling so much that
retirement, and certainly early retirement, is no longer an option. Now, they
are faced with the fact theyre not going have the same income in retirement
that they made working, she said.
We also have seen a
lessening of open job orders of employers who are working with us looking for
applicants, she said. Overall, employers who come to us are looking for
referrals for the $7 to $10 an hour worker, and that has diminished.
Stearnes said usually
employers who seek older workers are looking to satisfy a target market.
Seniors are extremely
dependable, and particularly if what youre looking for is part-time, because
they are seen as a good pool of part-time workers, she said. I think theyre
seen as good role models.
They certainly do have
experience. Those are the things that make older people attractive (to
employers). The underlying thing, when you find businesses that market to or
whose traffic is older people, such as pharmacies older people are the ones
with the bulk of prescriptions, so they want older people at the counter.
Theyre very happy to have the image of an older person to appeal to their
In her 27 years of
experience, Stearnes said she has found that, in general, employers who
approach Senior Services are not seeking people with middle to upper management
skills. They tend to look to a younger age bracket for those positions.
However, Senior Services
offers a job referral service at its offices at 4700 Poplar Ave. as a satellite
of Memphis Area Career Center.
Stearnes said 125 to 160
people use this service each month, and although Senior Services specializes in
finding employment for older individuals, anyone is welcome to use it.
One employer that might find
such a service useful is Regions Bank.
Bank officials recognized
that experience and expertise count and not just age when last year they
persuaded Robert L. Booth to come out of retirement to become the banks
executive vice president and manager of the business banking group.
I retired at Union Planters
at the end of 2000, Booth said. Then, I got a phone call from an executive
search person, inquiring if I would be interested in coming out of mothballs
and having another go at corporate lending.
That was Regions Bank, which
followed the acquisition of Morgan Keegan, which I think probably prompted them
to expand in the area here given the fact that Morgan Keegan is such a major
influence among the business community here in Memphis. That interested me
terrifically and its been a lot of fun.
Booth had been enjoying his
I was and still am working on a book on the psychology of consumer
credit, and also helping out part-time with one of my sons in his business
and having a good time, he said.
At 66, Booth said he still
has no immediate plans to retire.
As long as I feel good and
as long as its fun, hell continue to work, he said.
But also, I do believe, at
some point, you have to get out of the way and let somebody else have some
For less-skilled workers,
Senior Services offers a federally funded employment program for low-income
individuals that provides part-time, minimum wage jobs.
Senior Community Service
Employment is a Title V program of the Older Americans Act, administered by the
U.S. Dept. of Labor. The program currently employs 164 people in Memphis.
Workers are paid the minimum
wage of $5.15 an hour. They work in day care centers, libraries and hospitals.
They work 20 hours a week. One of the goals of the program is to get this
experience and get them back into the job market and transition them into
regular employment outside the program, Stearnes said.
Something of a Renaissance
woman, 62-year-old Linda Douty said maturity has its own rewards.
Spending much of her early
life as a mother and wife, Douty has worked doing everything from in-home
clothing sales to modeling.
I see life past 50 as a far
more fertile field than I ever dreamed, particularly for women. You escape the
cultures insistence that you be young and beautiful. You get free of that and
you have a whole new life, she said.
Douty has been a spiritual
director for the past five years and sees clients in her home.
She teaches seminars that
have to do with spiritual growth and writes book reviews.
In addition, she is director
of the Center for Spiritual Growth under the auspices of Samaritan Counseling
Most of her clients are
older, as are most spiritual directors.
Even something as eclectic
as this is enriched by age, Douty said. You have to have life wisdom in order
to do that.
You have to get muddy
yourself before you can help somebody else get out of the mud.