Idaho program helps connect senior citizens with work

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the number of seniors working has risen almost 19-percent between the year 2000 and 2016. (AP File Photo)

BOISE, Idaho (CBS 2) — More seniors than ever are leaving retirement to go back into the workforce.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the number of seniors working has risen almost 19-percent between the year 2000 and 2016.

"I think a lot of people never paid into retirement," said Birgit Luebeck, program specialist for the Idaho Commission on Aging.

The last full week in September is National Employ Older Workers Week and the Idaho Commission on Aging is shedding light on one of the programs they offer to help address this growing need in our state.

"They're struggling. A lot of them. Sometimes the word doesn't get out [and] they don't know where to go," said Luebeck. "They need help and we can help at least in regards to employment."

The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), which is funded by the Department of Labor, connects senior citizens who are looking for work with local non-profit agencies who are looking for affordable labor.

Around 30 host agencies throughout Idaho — including thrift stores, senior centers, meal sites, and government agencies — are partnered with the program.

The seniors' pay is subsidized for up to two years, so both parties benefit.

The purpose is to help get older workers who come out of retirement back into the workforce in a way that is appealing to employers.

Often times, finding a job without having a foot in the door is difficult for seniors because of stigma and a gap in their resume.

"You figure they are not going to look at you," said Mary Anne Knutson, a senior who is a participant in SCSEP. "When they tell you they have 70 applicants for one position. Well, you know you're going to be on the bottom of the totem pole."

70-year-old Mary Anne Knutson is among the many seniors who have come out of retirement to look for work.

"It was more supplemental income," said Knutson. "Living on social security and with the expenses the way they are, it just wasn't enough."

Knutson was able to find a job through SCSEP at local non-profit Area 3 Senior Services Agency.

Her new boss says once a position opens at their organization, her resume will be at the top of the stack.

"The cool thing is that she would have already worked here and trained here and understands what we do," said Raul Enriquez, Executive Director at Area 3 Senior Services Agency in Meridian. "So, she would be an easy fit when that opportunity comes."

It's an opportunity seniors may not have otherwise been given before they had this experience under their belt.

For Knutson, it's an opportunity that provides more than just an income.

"My self worth, my own personal feeling that I actually matter and that I am doing something important," she said. " [It] means all the difference in the world."

For more information on getting involved in SCSEP, you can reach out directly to the program's contractor Experience Works.

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