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Seniors stepping out of retirement, into workplace

Resource type: News

Fort Worth Star-Telegram |


FORT WORTH — Wade Clements is determined to find work.

The 61-year-old land surveyor was laid off in September, and he’s now a regular at the WorkforceSolutionsWestsideWorkforceCenter in Fort Worth.

Clements was there Friday, editing his résumé and searching online for jobs alongside other hopeful clients, who like him, are in their 60s.

“Applying for a job today at my age, ” said Clements, who would like to find a?people say, ‘He’s too old,’ job that pays $11 an hour to help pay the bills. “It’s competitive. They want to hire the younger ones.”

The recession has not been kind to older Americans.

Falling stock prices have depleted their savings, and many retirees are being forced back into the workplace to survive.

At a time when they are supposed to be enjoying their golden years, many senior citizens are applying for jobs against younger applicants at places like movie theaters, grocery stores and restaurants.

And it’s not just seniors who are concerned.

Middle-aged workers worry about losing their jobs during peak earning years, a crucial time for those who are trying to boost the balances of their individual retirement accounts or 401(k) plans.

If they are laid off, older workers don’t have as much time to recoup lost savings when they find work, said Mary Scott, interim state president of Texas AARP.

“This makes it so much worse,” Scott said. “Many of them really need some kind of a job.”

Older job applicants

Job applications at Rave Motion Pictures theaters illustrate how the recession is affecting middle-aged and older workers.

“We are getting more applications, we are getting more applications from experienced and older workers,” said Jeremy Devine, vice president of marketing for the Dallas-based company.

Devine said in Destin, Fla., management has experienced an increase in high-caliber and older applicants due to corporate downsizing.

In Houston, workers who once had jobs in the oil, gas and chemical fields have been applying.

California managers reported an increase in the number of housewives re-entering the market.

At Rave theaters at Ridgmar and North East malls, they’ve seen an increase in applications from people of all ages, including those who used to work at big-box retailers and car dealerships.

Jobs available at Rave range from management to line jobs — such as concession and ticket takers.

While a premium is placed on life experience and other management, hiring depends on the needs of each site, Devine said.

Applications to Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores regularly cover the demographic spectrum, said Terry Holden, marketing director of the Oklahoma-based company.

“We have always had a wide range, agewise, in our stores,” Holden said.

“It is not uncommon for a teenager to work at our store, and it’s not uncommon for someone of retirement age to work at our store.”

Braum’s had already established itself as a workplace friendly to senior applicants before the market meltdown. Braum’s, which has 80-plus stores in North Texas, is holding strong despite the national recession, and people seeking work typically look for companies surviving hard times.

“As times get tight, folks start focusing on value, and we tend to do just fine,” Holden said.

“Ice cream is a great reward, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money.”

‘Young at Heart’ program

Six Flags Over Texas, also has a reputation for hiring elderly workers. It started a “Young at Heart” program in 1997 and has 170 members in the program.

The benefit to the park is having more mature workers mixed in with the numerous teenagers who usually work there during the summer.

“They tend to be more inclined to engage our guests and in turn, guests tend to gravitate to them more for information and for directions,” said Six Flags general manager Steve Martindale.

Many of the older employees work as ticket takers, security checkers, park cleaners and in food service, Martindale said.

On opening day, 75-year-old Arlington resident Mary Delbrail scanned tickets and welcomed guests as they walked through the turnstiles at the park’s front entrance.

“I love to talk to people so I get to visit with them and see the kids’ faces when they walk in and see the carousel,” said Delbrail, who is starting her fourth year at the park.

Although Delbrail still works at the Arlington school district in the transportation department, she said she applied for the Six Flags job because it looked like a lot of fun.

Arlington school-bus driver Bob Postma said he likes having the additional cash from his Six Flags job.

“They use me where they need me,” said Postma, who was checking bags at the park’s front gates on opening day.

“I had a little extra time and I could use a little extra money, and it worked out real fine,” he said.

Senior centers

Area senior centers are doing what they can to help.

At the Haltom City Senior Citizen Center, more seniors ages 60 and older, have been participating in the lunch and grocery bag programs to stretch their dollars, supervisor Bobbi Arthur said. The senior center partners with the Tarrant Area Food Bank, and every Tuesday qualifying seniors can get a bag of food to take home.

There is also food bingo days in which the prizes are nonperishable foods. And qualifying seniors can get lunch by paying whatever they can afford, Arthur said. Arthur said the center has also been helping younger seniors, who are coming in because retirement checks aren’t covering their expenses.

“That is a sign of the times,” she said.

Jonathan Phillips, supervisor at the KellerSeniorActivitiesCenter, said many seniors have been showing an interest in computer classes so they can learn job skills.

“Some of them are asking if we have job postings,” Phillips said. “We get asked if we know people who hire.”

Phillips said he is going to put job postings on the center’s bulletin board.

It’s clear that the economy is on mind of the seniors, he said.

“They talk about it all the time,” Phillips said. “You can walk through the main room, and they are talking about the latest news.”

‘Too many unemployed’

The 2-1-1 assistance line managed by the United Way of TarrantCounty has experienced a slight increase in calls from people 55 years and older.

Between Dec. 1, 2008, to March 3, 2,687 people called seeking help with energy bills, rent and food, up about 300 from the same time last year.

One such caller was Roberta Parson of Saginaw. She has exhausted her 401(k) account and relies on a monthly Social Security check and occasional work as a substitute teacher to get by.

In the meantime, she continues to look for full-time employment. But she is not optimistic.

“There are too many unemployed people out there, and I know I don’t stand a chance,” Parson said.

“I’m at the point of no return. if it wasn’t for faith, I would have sunk.”

Staff writer Andrea Ahles contributed to this report.

Getting help

AARP launched the Real Relief online portal to help older Americans. It includes tips for job hunts, protecting investments and cutting expenses.

AARP also lists Web sites aimed at helping middle-aged and older workers find jobs. Here is a sampling:

The United Way’s 2-1-1 information and referral service is also a starting point. Specialists can refer callers to organizations and churches in TarrantCounty that help people with basic needs, such as rent, mortgage, utilities and food.

Specialists can also refer people to employment resources, counseling and healthcare services.

Information is also available at

The resource guide Coping with Unemployment is available online at

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AARP, jobs, retirement, senior citizens, unemployment