SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – The last full week of September – this year falling September 18-24 – has been designated as National Employ Older Workers Week by the U.S. Department of Labor, an observance that recognizes the vital role of older workers in the workforce.
At Goodwill Industries-Manasota (GIMI), workers over the age of 55 comprise 43% of its workforce of approximately 750. There are 324 team members 55 or older; of those, 116 are 65 and over and 21 are 75 and over. The oldest employee is 85. These team members hold positions at all levels of the organization.
For some older workers, challenging economic conditions may have forced them to begin earning money again, as fixed incomes can only stretch so far in the face of surging inflation and sharply increased costs for necessities such as rent, gas and food. For others, the decision to remain in – or return to – the workforce is related to a desire to stay active and use their hard-earned, long-used skills and expertise. For still others, retirement may have become boring or the isolation too much to take.
At GIMI, there are many stories behind the older workers on the payroll:
• “Nellie” worked for 30 years before resigning her position to move in with and care for her elderly mother. The two pooled their money to purchase property but lost everything due to fraud; the two became homeless. Her mother suffered a series of accidents and illnesses and ended up in a rehab center, while Nellie was forced to move into a halfway house. A Goodwill employment specialist at a Goodwill Job Connection office helped Nellie to replace critical documents (all of their possessions were lost when they could not pay for their storage facility) and apply for a full-time job at Goodwill. Now she is working to get her life back on track.
• “Louis” is a 75-year-old veteran of the Vietnam War. He made his way to a Goodwill Job Connection office when he realized his savings weren’t sufficient for him to escape an unfavorable living situation and get a place of his own. He got a full-time job at Goodwill and is now working on obtaining approval from the Veterans Administration to purchase a home using VA benefits.
• “Victor,” 75, is from Cuba, where he earned a degree in microbiology but earned terrible pay, with a family of four to support. After finally being drawn in the visa lottery after years of trying, the family moved to Miami, then Kentucky, and ended up in Sarasota, living with Victor’s cousin. Victor and his wife both applied for and got jobs at a Goodwill store located just down the street from their home. Their GoodPartner Coach helped them to apply for a Habitat for Humanity house, in which they live today. They participate in the organization’s 401K program, have a savings account and, in 2011, Victor became an American citizen. His wife became an American citizen this year.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2024, 13 million people age 65 and older will still be working. These older workers will constitute the fastest-growing segment of the workforce from 2014 to 2024. While the total number of workers is expected to increase by 5% over those 10 years, the number of workers ages 65 to 74 will swell by 55%. For people 75 and older, the total will grow a whopping 86%, according to BLS projections.
“At Goodwill, we choose to focus on abilities rather than see barriers to our mutual success. Having an age-diverse workforce has been very successful for us,” said Goodwill Manasota president and CEO Donn Githens. “Numerous employer surveys have shown – and our experience here affirms – that older workers are reliable, have a strong work ethic, and have life and work experience that can be invaluable to teammates and supervisors. They are also reflective of the demographics in our communities, which helps us to better serve the residents.”
For more information about Goodwill, call 941-355-2721 or visit experiencegoodwill.org.
About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit www.experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.