May is Older Americans Month; Job Finder Says Hold the Confetti

In 1963 President John F. Kennedy officially made May "Older Americans Month" to honor those age 65-plus. When the calendar page turns this Thursday, the observance will mark its 45th anniversary, but at least one expert in the field of employment of assistance wonders if Americans should still be celebrating when so many of the nation's senior citizens are barely getting by or outright living in poverty.

"With out-of-control housing, utility, and health care costs, I've heard from hundreds of older individuals who still must work," says Ilyse Shapiro, founder of the job search Web site "Sadly, these are people who felt their retirement savings, pensions, and Social Security income would comfortably cover their living expenses."

Shapiro says the clients in her site's database reflect on a smaller scale the daunting numbers representing reality for the elderly in the United States--namely that 12 percent of the population, or 37.3 million individuals, are age 65-plus, and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 9.4 percent of this group lives in poverty. The bureau's 2008 Statistical Abstract of the U.S. shows that in 2006, 5.5 million Americans age 65-plus were employed and projects that by 2016 10.1 million in the same age group will be employed.

According to the Department of Labor, the median income for those age 65-plus in 2006 was $27,798, which represents a 3.4 percent increase from 2005. The median income for all U.S. households during the same time period was $46,326. Shapiro cites a 2007 AARP poll that showed only 23 percent of Americans saying they pan to fully retire when they reach age 65, 16 percent at age 70; the same poll showed that seven percent of Americans never plan to stop working.

"Sadly, the jobs available to this population tend to be entry-level or unskilled positions, many of which are low paying and, in some cases, require a lot of physical activity," Shapiro said. "This is clearly a waste of talent and experience."

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