Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Innovative Programs Aim to Keep Seniors as Productive Workers Series: New Outlooks on Retirement. Part 4 of 5. Story Two

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Innovative Programs Aim to Keep Seniors as Productive Workers Series: New Outlooks on Retirement. Part 4 of 5. Story Two

Article excerpt

Work doesn't need to end with retirement.

For proof, consider the 800 older workers scattered across the country at 29 offices of the Environmental Protection Agency. As participants in the agency's Senior Environmental Employment Program, they handle a variety of assignments and serve as mentors to younger employees. Their average age is 67, with more than 200 in their 70s and 80s.

"This program has changed the EPA forever," says Larry Anderson, president of the National Older Worker Career Center in Washington. "They have learned as an agency how age diversity has enriched their work force." Mr. Anderson tells of an older man who worked at the Great Lakes National Water Program in Chicago. Young employees called him "Pop" and teased him that he was around when the Great Lakes were formed. "He knew how the Great Lakes got polluted," says Anderson. "He was an enormous asset in providing background information to the EPA as they negotiated treaties with the Canadian government. His reward was having young civil servants come to him with tough questions that he knew the answers to." The EPA senior program, established 21 years ago, is now under the direction of the National Older Worker Career Center. Launched in September, the center will also help other federal agencies and large corporations. It will develop flexible work schedules, job sharing, and phased retirement programs that enable people over 55 to choose job options that suit them. Anderson hopes efforts like this will promote "a quiet social revolution" in which employers reconsider the value of older workers. By 2010, he explains, the entire United States will look demographically like Florida today. "We're going to have to find ways to keep people employed. Otherwise, every working younger person will be supporting three to four older persons who are healthy and able to work but are drawing Social Security and Medicare. That just doesn't work." Helen Dennis, a lecturer at the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California, also uses the word "revolutionary" to describe the shifting patterns she sees. …

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