Retirees are back on the job in NYC

The city's Department for the Aging is tapping into ex-professionals' expertise in a new program.

Associated Press
Published August 28, 2007

NEW YORK - When Mort Sheinman retired in his mid 60s, he was managing editor of a major trade publication, and he'd spent more than four decades earning some well-deserved rest.

Instead, the former Women's Wear Daily manager went right back to work, ultimately taking a part-time job that used all his professional expertise and paid him just $10 an hour.

New York City is hoping to find more ex-professionals like the 73-year-old - people who are either unable or unwilling to return to work full-time but who want to use their skills and stay in touch with the workaday world.

The city's Department for the Aging is launching a program to bring at least 100 such participants to work on short-term projects for city agencies. With a growing number of baby boomers approaching retirement with decades of active, healthy life ahead of them, organizers say the program could serve as a model for cities around the country.

The effort will be operated by ReServe, an organization that has been matching seniors with part-time jobs in the New York metro area since 2005. Participants, called ReServists, work about 10 to 15 hours a week for $10 an hour.

"The No. 1 benefit for any retiree is to do something that gets you out of the house," said Sheinman, who writes and networks for the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District. "I see it as an opportunity for me to go learn, for me to keep learning things."

The city hopes to spend $1-million per year on the project. Organizers envision asking retired marketers to help the Health Department plan outreach campaigns on health risks, while ex-educational advocates could guide juvenile detainees back into the school system.

The success of the program will depend on the interest of the city's agencies, which will have to propose projects in order to receive workers.

For some of the seniors, the stipend is more than a token sum.

One participant, an architect's assistant who lost her job when her boss retired, found it impossible to find employment at her age, recounted ReServe's executive director, Claire Haaga Altman. The paycheck from the program allowed her to buy necessities.

The story underscores the difficulty many older professionals have finding new full-time work once they approach or pass retirement age.

About 80 percent of participants have no acute need for the stipend, Altman said. But the compensation, which may seem paltry to some, serves to remind employers and ReServists that their work is both valued and valuable.

"It dignifies the work," she said. "Volunteers often get shunted to stuffing envelopes."

Many ReServists find their assignments allow them to explore new facets of old skills.

With the nation's population aging rapidly, such programs could help fight what some fear could become a baby boomer brain drain. By 2030, one in five U.S. residents is expected to be 65 or older.

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On the Web

ReServe Elder Service Inc.: www.reserveinc.org