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Advocates: Maine, Nation's Oldest State, Lacks Jobs for Older Workers
10/07/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

It's well-established that Maine is the "oldest" state in the country - at least in terms of the age of its residents. With a median age now at 43.5, Maine is expected to hang onto the title well into the next decade age. As younger workers continue to leave the state in search of jobs, employers may have to depend more of workers over 55. But according to an advocacy group for retirees, Maine could do a much better job at attracting, and sustaining, older workers. A.J. Higgins has more.

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While visiting Maine last week, Dr. Susan Wehry offered some basic advice to aging baby boomers: "Take advantage of being 60 to reinvent yourself."

As Vermont's commissioner of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, Wehry says Mainers in this age group should think twice about leaving the work force, and that 60 is about the right time to consider one's options.

"Because being 60 for a lot of people means their kids are grown, they've had a successful career - they may still be in that successful career - and it is an opportunity to continue working, get a new job or to do something - dream job - that they've always wanted to do," Wehry says.

These jobs can not only shore up a retirement plan, says Wehry, but also offer a sense of involvement and level of social interaction. And older workers offer benefits of their own: Surveys have indicated that consumers are more trusting of older workers.

"People over the age of 50 stay on the job three times longer than a younger person - a person under the age of 50. That is hugely attractive to employers for whom turnover is a major issue," says Tim Driver, the CEO and founder of RetirementJobs.com, a national firm that helps experienced older workers seeking employment.

The company's most recent national survey ranked Maine at 47th in terms of the number of job opportunities for seniors.
"I think this points out an opportunity, particularly for state leaders in Maine, to make it a more age-friendly state," Driver says, "make companies more aware of the benefits of attracting and retaining people over the age of 50."

The Maine Department of Labor does recognize companies that employ workers over the age of 50 with something called the "Silver Collar" award. Peaches Bass, a program specialist for the State Workforce Investment Board, says that three Maine firms were recognized this year. But she acknowledges that there weren't may contenders.

"This year, we really received just a handful of nominations, despite actually casting a broader net in terms of publicizing the award," Bass says.

Bass and other state labor officials are exploring new strategies for getting the word out to employers about hiring older workers. The department estimates that within the next 20 years, at least 40 percent of the current workforce for most sectors will be 65 or older.



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