"Seniors" Edging Out Youngsters in Workforce - NBC New York

"Seniors" Edging Out Youngsters in Workforce



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    Joan Murko, MA, RN, has always disliked what she calls "descriptive phrases"  -- like "senior citizens."

    "Does that imply we have junior citizens?" Murko asks. "I make no apologies for my age."

    Her age is 75, and when the fall semester begins at Bergen County Community College in September, Joan will mark her 20th year on campus. She is director of the school's Nursing Department, which will enroll 300 students this year.

    "I think I bring to the college a sense of humor, I bring them more than 50 years of experience as a nurse, 45 as an educator and an administrator," she said. "What the college recognizes is what you're bringing... they're really not into that chronological age."

    Joan is one of a growing number of older people who are staying in, or re-entering the workforce.

    "I'm not here worrying about a promotion. I've had mine," she said. "If someone's unhappy with my performance, that's okay. Just send me my last paycheck and I'll be on my way."

    Eli Amdur, a career coach and adjunct professor of business at Fairleigh Dickinson University, has written extensively on the "Graying of the Workforce."

    "The fastest growing segment of the workforce in the United States is the 55 and older age bracket," said Amdur. "The second is 45 to 54," he says. "We're all living longer, Social Security hasn't kept up with our longevity, therefore we can't afford 30-year retirements. We're working longer because we have to, our finances aren't in good shape."

    For the first time since 1948, when federal records on such statistics were first gathered, the number of older people in the workforce outnumber teenagers, and younger people are finding it harder to get jobs and their older counterparts delay retirement.

    Amdur says that while the July numbers aren't out yet, the stats for June are clearly an indication of the shift toward an aging workforce.

    "The unemployment rate nationwide was 9.5 percent. The unemployment rate for teenagers was 25.9 pecent -- almost three times that," said Amdur. "There are less and less jobs because a lot of seniors are willing to take those jobs either to move from the job they have into one that's less demanding or they're getting back into the workforce."

    Cle'Anna Webster knows that all too well. The Teaneck High School senior has spent this summer taking care of her little brother. She'd rather have been working.

    "I looked on the Internet, in the newspapers. I'd walk by stores and see a "Help Wanted" sign and go inside, but nothing," she says. "I really needed to work this summer, and I can't."

    Mrs. Murko says she sees the trend in the field of nursing as well.

    "We're finding new graduates are having a tough time finding jobs in hospitals because older nurses are still occupying that line," she says. But don't look for her to retire any time soon. "It's been this profession of mine and I just thrive on that high level of activity. I suspect I will be doing something well into my years."