essays

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare A Job?

female workerI get it. Recent college graduates are facing one of the worst job markets in decades. But they are resilient. The employment situation will get better and they will eventually find their way into the workforce.

The over 65 crowd is facing the same crisis with more dire consequences. There are more Americans 65 and over in the job market today than at any time in history. No secret as to why that is. They thought they had enough money to retire on and when this killer recession hit their retirement accounts didnít just go southÖ.they tanked.

But what about the half million workers who want to work but canít find jobs? They are experiencing the highest unemployment level since the Great Depression. Young jobseekers can wait tables or become baristas while they ride out the downturn, but what do you do if youíre over 65? Not many employers are going to even give you a shot if itís a choice between you and the twenty something.

Discouraged workers have given up looking and are counting on welfare programs to survive. For a worker over 65 who owns a house and a car, giving up is not an option unless they want to lose everything.

If youíre thinking that Social Security is the answer for this small housesegment of the population, think again. The age for full benefits recently went to 66 for people born after 1942, and the average recipient age 65 and over is getting a little over $12,000 in benefits, which barely puts them over the poverty line. According to the Congressonal Research Service, in 2008 the median income for those 65 and over was $18,208, and more than a quarter had incomes under $11,139.

Since company pensions have practically become extinct, and 401ks continue to take a beating, the only choice is to try to keep working.

Maybe itís time we considered job creation programs for seniors. They did it during the Great Depression with the Civilian Conservation Corps and again in the 70ís with the Public Service Employment Program Ė why not try it again to see if we can put seniors to work in useful ways that benefit them and the entire community. It beats watching people who have worked all their lives lose not only the roof over their heads but their dignity as well.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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