While some seniors have resolved to lose weight or exercise more or spend more time with family in 2011, others are seriously searching for a job.
With the economic downturn, some retirees find themselves needing to work again.
Finding a job isn't as easy as it was when they were younger and although it is illegal, age discrimination could be a contributing factor.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) Effie Harpster of Bellwood (left) and Margaret White of Altoona do clerical work in the accounting office at Valley View Home under the Pennsylvania Experience Works program. The program offers training to residents 55 and older in order to help them find a permanent full-time job.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich) Larry Dorazio of Experience Works helps Valley View resident Amber Loucks decorate the hallway at Valley View Home.
Ernie Podrasky, access and utilization director for the behavioral health department at Altoona Regional Health System, said companies may discriminate against seniors because they are looking for younger workers with fresh ideas.
"I think a lot of places are very fair about how they approach employment, but some might engage in subtle age discrimination," Podrasky said.
"Age discrimination is alive and well. Many people are unable to get past an interview," said Marcia Wilson, office administrator for Pennsylvania Experience Works, a nonprofit which works with lower-income seniors to update their skills, improve their work experience and find them full-time jobs.
Experience Works places people who are at least 55 years old and meet certain income requirements in a training situation provided at local nonprofit organizations.
The program pays the seniors and the nonprofits get the benefit of extra help while the seniors are able to gain experience.
"Some of that money was provided by the stimulus package. I always like to tell people that the stimulus bill helped people right in their own community," Wilson said.
In Blair and Centre counties, 95 seniors are enrolled in the program. Although the seniors are considered low-income, many of them are highly skilled, said Alma Smith, an assistant for the local Experience Works program.
"They can't find work right now, because it's a tough market. It's especially hard for seniors because there are so many young people flooding the market. They're willing to work at a startup wage. But older people get into a financial bind," Smith said.
Joel Solkoff, 63, of State College is in that situation. He is unable to walk because of aggressive cancer treatments at age 28, which destroyed bones in his spine.
Solkoff has beaten the odds most of his life. He has traveled the country and published three books as well as written articles for well-known newspapers.
He also has served as a speech writer for the federal government.
As Solkoff got older, he found it harder to get a job. Through Experience Works, he started working at the Penn State University Architectural Engineering Department. He loved the challenge, and he could scoot to work in his power chair in 10 minutes.
Shortly after his training, Solkoff found a full-time job as an employment specialist at the Blair County Association for the Blind and Visually Handicapped. He worked there for six months before the organization ran out of funds for the position, so he returned to work with Experience Works at Penn State.
For overcoming the odds and finding a job, Solkoff won an award from the Experience Works Champions program this summer. He enjoys his work at Penn State and hopes to find a job in the department.
Being productive is a goal of many seniors.
Feeling useful is important regardless of your age, Podrasky said. Some seniors find a new passion after returning to work.
Larry Dorazio, 61, of Altoona has found a new calling through Experience Works. The program led him to Valley View Nursing Home where he assists the residents.
Dorazio had worked in the apparel industry for 30 years. Then, he opened a used car lot, but got out of it because of the economy.
So, Dorazio found himself without a job, and didn't have much luck when he submitted job applications.
"I really didn't find anything," he said. "I think it's a little bit of the economy and my age."
About a year ago, Dorazio saw an ad in the Altoona Mirror about Experience Works. Dorazio fit the requirements and started working part time at Valley View.
Bill Mandicarne, volunteer coordinator at Valley View, said Dorazio and other Experience Works seniors are exceptional workers.
"They're wonderful people to work with. They're just a real asset to our facility," Mandicarne said.
Dorazio and other Experience Works employees help the nursing home residents by taking them to different appointments or activities and socializing with them. They also can be found running the snack shop or working the switchboard.
Mandicarne said companies shouldn't give a second thought to hiring seniors.
"They are excellent. They are honest, reliable. They want to work. They want to excel. There should be no reason why a company should not want to hire an older worker," Mandicarne said.
And while seniors may require training to learn or improve skills, they are willing to learn.
Andrea Young, spokesperson for the VA Medical Hospital in Altoona, also a host agency for the Experience Works program, said the seniors she has encountered are able to adapt well to their jobs.
"They're very committed, very reliable. They commit to a schedule and they're here," Young said. "Some of the concerns people might have is that they don't have the technology skills. But, any time they've needed to develop those skills, they've been able to do that. Our people have done an excellent job of learning."
Seniors participate in the program for a maximum of four years and are given training in resume-building and interview and technology skills.
At some point, they are expected to find full-time work. The success rate is about 40 to 50 percent, as far as placing Experience Works people in full-time jobs every year.
"This image is that older workers are maybe too old to work and not really dependable, but they have so much to offer. They're very devoted to their employers," Smith said. "We hope employers in the region will start utilizing older people because they are a great resource. Just give them a try."