By Mary Lou Hinrichsen
Herald Staff Writer
For many senior citizens, returning to the work force is not a whim, but a necessity. And that’s where the Generations Area Agency on Aging wants to help.
Long known for providing services that help the elderly stay in their own homes, such as meals, family caregiver programs and support groups, Generations also advocates for older workers through its Senior Internship Program (SIP).
“We are the only AAA in the state of Iowa still involved in Senior Employment and one of the few nationwide honoring older workers,” said Catherine Pratscher-Woods, assistant Director of Generations.
“Our employment specialists are the heart and soul of the program as they work directly with the older workers (age 55 or better), looking for employment.
“We serve eight counties with our Senior Internship Program: Clinton, Jackson, Scott, Muscatine, Louisa, Henry, Lee and Des Moines.
“In those eight counties, anyone who is age 55-plus, unemployed, has a low yearly income and needs skills and encouragement to compete in the work force, we may be able to help.
“Individuals who are accepted into the program receive valuable paid on-the-job training and practical work experience in order for them to move to employment of their choice.
“Support services such as job counseling and resume writing may be provided.”
Short term job training assignments are usually in a public service organization.
“Even for those who do not qualify for the SIP program, our employment specialists may supply them with information regarding job openings and referrals for supportive services.”
The SIP brochure encourages employers to hire older workers, saying they have lower absenteeism rates, lower turnover rates, are generally more loyal employees, have fewer job injuries, bring a wealth of experience with them to work and serve as models for younger employees.
Non-profit organizations also can benefit, the brochure says.
While the host agency provides the training and direct supervision of the program’s older workers, SIP pays the wages of the participant (at minimum wage plus workers compensation.)
Training assignments may result in new or expanded services for the organization.
SIP can also help local businesses, as a SIP employment specialist screens and matches employers with mature and well-trained people who have the skills the business is looking for.
At Generations’ 25th annual Senior Employment Program Awards ceremony Nov. 8, special achievement awards were presented to staff members from Bettendorf, Davenport and Burlington; special recognition was given to the Davenport Community School District and Psychology Health Group of Davenport for hiring older workers, and community spirit awards went to volunteers from Fort Madison and Bettendorf.
Hy-Vee Store 4 received the older worker Employer of the Year Award and two women received the Older Worker of the Year Award. They were:
• Lois Van Maanen, Davenport, a Para-Educator in a Davenport elementary school for her continuing service while undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
• Mary Lou Hinrichsen, DeWitt, for her continued employment as a staff writer for the Clinton Herald, Clinton, at age 86.
The Generations office in Clinton is located at 419 S. Second St., phone 243-6595.
To contact an employment specialist from Clinton or Jackson County, phone 1-800-892-9085, ext, 208.