Older Workers Face Bleak Prospects, Program Cuts

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BOSTON -- “The message we are sending is ‘America to seniors: Drop dead because we don’t want to provide healthcare, Social Security or employment,’” stated Anthony Sarmiento, executive director of Senior Service America, at the Gerontological Society of America conference in Boston. Older workers, he said, are hearing, that message as they face increased hardships because of budget cuts that affect employment opportunities for older workers, and the debates over Medicare and Social Security.

Contrary to many media reports, aging boomers are not burdening the young while they enjoy lavish lifestyles. “Healthier, more educated baby boomers is not the whole story,” Sarmiento said. People aged 45 and over are more likely than others to remain unemployed over 99 weeks, especially low-income workers, minorities and women.

A report issued by the National Academy on an Aging Society, noted that low income and minority workers “face triple jeopardy in the labor market: limited education and job skills, greater likelihood of unemployment, and more difficulty in finding work when unemployed.”

The report’s author, Andrew Sum of Northeastern University, said that faced with long-term unemployment, many simply drop out of the workforce. One answer, that federal Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) provides on-the-job training for low-income unemployed individuals ages 55-plus. But this year the program suffered budget cuts reducing the number of jobs it can provide and hours an employee can work.

Andrea Parrott wrote this article as part of a MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowship, a project of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.