West Hartford’s Seniors Job Bank helping local Seniors
by Lisa Lelas
Being eligible for Social Security and Medicare at age 65 are the milestones that many people think mark the end of “middle age” and the beginning of “old age.” But as we live longer and healthier lives, and as the baby boomer generation begins to age, the way we view and live past age 65…the very notion of old age…is being challenged. Many seniors want to stay involved in activities and work into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s.
In this economic time of uncertainty, one thing seems to be certain: the cost of living keeps rising and many retirees in the area still need extra income to help pay their bills.
So, what does retirement look like in today’s world? There is increasing evidence that the full-start/full-stop model of paid work is no longer feasible. Many people are not financially prepared to stop working at 65, and even those who are may miss the intellectual stimulation and social benefits of working. In addition, some companies are beginning to experience a shortage of talent for skilled jobs, just as experienced workers are beginning to retire. To help address these changing forces, both workers and employers are experimenting with new models of work.
One such solution that has proven successful in the area is the Seniors Job Bank, a non-profit community resource, helping to match up senior residents’ job skills to paying jobs, full time and part time.
In 1974, resident, Pat Newton, first established the Seniors Job Bank, but following her retirement after a 34 year run and eventual lack of finances to keep the service going, the office door was eventually locked up and the Job Bank closed down. An empty office sat in the town hall for years, still filled with furniture and dusty old computers. Eventually, the West Hartford Senior Advisory Commission formed a task force to investigate and recommend whether the Seniors Job Bank should be re-introduced using a different business plan. The answer was ‘yes’. Fast forward to 2013: financial resources are gathered and the office re-opens, under the direction of Board President, Bob Cave. A key to the town hall office is handed to Bob from Mayor Scott Slifka and the local job referral service is back in full swing!
“It’s a service that has helped over 30,000 people find paying jobs,” notes Bob, “for many people, like me, it can help pay bills.”
Residents in the community actually found funds to re-open the business. This year’s budget is more than $40,000, with 100% of the money donated by foundations, such as the Hartford Foundation, several banks and other sources. If you or your business would like to make a donation, you are encouraged to visit their website and click the ‘donate’ button. The Seniors Job Bank is run by about 45 volunteers, one part time office manager, Bill Stachelek, and a board of directors, with Bob Cave serving as board president. The board has two committees: Fund raising and Volunteers. The job bank concentrates on being one of the best and most helpful job referral services for seniors, which helps seniors live independently and continue to live in their home.
“Our goal is to keep the service free. There is absolutely no fee for companies looking for help or to the client or service provider.” He assures.
“Its primary emphasis,” Bob continues, “is for those who want to work but cannot seem to find jobs. Many people are retired or have been laid off.” Residents in the greater Hartford area must be at least 50 to use the resources offered by the Job Bank.
Just this year alone, more than 10 people have been hired by local businesses through the Job Bank. Residents looking for work can go to their website and register while providing a list of the type of work they are looking for, whether it be occasional odd jobs, such as gardening, driving, and painting to full or part time work at established companies. Volunteers select names to best match the top people for the jobs available and interviews are set up. People simply register, set up an appointment, partake in a quick interview and await jobs. There are no resumes or qualifications required.
Testimonials come in daily from residents who have benefited from their services, from local businesses who have hired employees via the Job Bank, and from associations, who have made donations. Wells Fargo Bank posts: “We extend our gratitude to you for what you’re doing in our community.” The Rotary Club of West Hartford approved a grant to the Seniors Job Bank, after noting that one of their board members actually tested it out and used a referral from the Job Bank to complete repairs at his home. He was a very satisfied customer!
West Hartford resident, Carrie Bernabe is proof that it works. She fondly tells Bob, “Thank you for putting the seniors in West Hartford back to work! I got a call from a wonderful company in Berlin (Care 4 U Pharmacy). They said they got my name from the job bank. They interviewed me and I got the job. What a great experience it was for me to work part time in a very nice environment with perfect hours. More power to the seniors of West Hartford!”
That’s exactly what Bob likes to hear. It’s working. “We are trying to encourage seniors to stay active and encourage them to work.”
The benefits of remaining intellectually engaged as people grow older is an area of active investigation by neuroscientists and physicians. “Engagement” is defined as the behavior that involves a high level of both intellectual and social function, and there is growing evidence based on many studies that show leading an intellectually stimulating life seems to foster cognitive vitality. It is also well established that lifelong learning has a protective effect with respect to dementia.
Overseeing the Job Bank, Bob says is rewarding work. “Helping seniors is nothing short of phenomenal!” Bob, who is an experienced handyman, also takes advantage of help needed in the community for any in-home/office remodeling or painting jobs and is quick to point out that everyone has something they can offer. “Seniors are knowledgeable. They have life experience and a great work ethic. They are really a valuable asset to employers.”
And Bob knows first hand. He proudly smiles, “I’m on my third job since my first retirement!”
For more information on the Seniors Job Bank or to register for employment opportunities, visit: wwwsjbct.org