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BOONE LIFE: Older residents have a hard time finding employment

Monday, March 22, 2010 | 5:38 p.m. CDT; updated 12:15 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Cheryl Wade-Coleman is an older Columbia resident who is having difficulty finding part-time employment. She is not alone.

COLUMBIA — Clocks tick in Cheryl Wade-Coleman’s living room as she describes the difficulties of finding part-time clerical work. 

In the past four years, she has applied to more than 15 jobs but has not been hired.

"I can understand if I was feeble ... or if my mind wasn't quite right," Wade-Coleman said. "But I don't understand why — if you have the experience to do the job and do it well — why don't they give you a chance?"

Wade-Coleman, 63, retired after a 2006 kidney transplant, believing she would have no problem finding a part-time job. Four years later, she is still looking for a job and finding little relief.

For the past two years, Wade-Coleman has worked in data entry for the Central Missouri Department of Mental Health. She earns minimum wage through the program Experience Works, which helps low-income seniors.

She is looking for a more substantial, well-paying job because her social security and disability checks don't cover her bills.

Wade-Coleman has more than 30 years of data entry experience and thinks the problem is age discrimination. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment among people over 55 is about 7 percent, up almost a quarter from last year.

Social Security checks do not stretch as far as they once did, and government-run programs such as disability cannot cover everything, said Rebecca Stauffer-Lindsey, an employee consultant at Job Point.

She said many companies are concerned with hiring seniors because they do not want to spend the time training people who are not planning on working much longer.

“There is a misconception out there that certain age people aren’t going to work out because they are only going to stay a little while,” said Stauffer-Lindsey, who has worked with Wade-Coleman since last summer. Wade-Coleman, along with many older citizens today, might never be able to afford to fully retire.

Another problem is that many older people are looking for part-time jobs, but many companies only offer full-time positions.

Wade-Coleman points out part-time positions do not require companies to provide health insurance or vacation time. For that reason, she wishes companies would hire older citizens in part-time positions for the benefit of both parties.


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