Helping Seniors Find Employment

By Loni Nannini, Special to
The Arizona Daily Star

May 14, 2006

Finding jobs for his peers is a labor of love for Roger Forrester, and the Mature Worker Connection is the fruit of that labor.

Forrester, 64, heads a force of almost 20 volunteers responsible for the nonprofit free job-placement service dedicated to finding employment for people age 50 and older.

"Seniors have a strong work ethic and we are dependable and we have experience," Forrester said. "With baby boomers retiring, they are projecting major labor shortages in the not-too-distant future, and the only growing segment of the population is the seniors.

"Obviously we have a lot of them here: In Pima County, projections are 300,000 people age 50 and older by the year 2010, and that is a wonderful resource that will be particularly beneficial to employers in our community."

Opportunities for employment can be equally beneficial to seniors, according to Forrester.

Many people find retirement boring after they spend several years traveling and relaxing, he said.

Forrester, a retired vice president of human resources for the University of Minnesota, said he is a prime example of a retiree who missed the sense of making a contribution.

After he met Jim Murphy, the corporate relations director of the Pima Council on Aging, the two devised a plan to put Forrester's skills back to work through the Mature Worker Connection.

Since the program opened in March, it has placed about 200 employees in full- and part-time jobs ranging from service and maintenance to health care and hospitality. It also has paired seniors who have administrative and professional skills with small and large businesses, including the University of Arizona. The program not only assists with job placement, but also offers training programs and various refresher courses including computer training through local partners such as Pima Community College and Goodwill Industries to assist seniors seeking to re-enter the work force.

The Mature Worker Connection also is responding to economic need for a segment of the retired population that lost a portion of their savings in the stock market several years ago, according to Murphy.

"The money they thought would last a lifetime is gone," he said. "And lots of companies are cutting retirement benefits such as health care, so people living on fixed incomes find their total savings reduced and find themselves paying for health care so they have to go back to work."

Whether seniors seek employment for financial or personal reasons, the program can help ease job-hunt anxiety, particularly for retirees who may lack networking contacts after their hiatus from the work force.

"I was ready for a change, and a career change is not easy at any age, but I wanted to do something different that serves a purpose that is more meaningful," said client Dan Toth, 56, who relocated to Tucson from Colorado after a career in government and the private sector, including mergers and acquisitions.

The Mature Worker Connection placed him with Reading Seed, a local children's literacy program. Toth uses his master's degree in public administration to effect community change with children and to work with staff and volunteers.

Overall, Forrester believes the Mature Worker Connection simply makes for a stronger community.

"It is not a matter of mature workers competing with younger workers: We are all needed. It diversifies the work force, and that is good for employers and employees alike," he said.