Retirement not an option for some in York County
York County residents stopping by the local PACareerLink office are currently greeted by the smiling faces of Norma A. Cedrone and Judy Cahoon.
Cedrone, 80, and Cahoon, 69, are training as receptionists through a state- and federal-funded senior community service program, Experience Works, that helps senior citizens re-enter the workforce.
The two are also part of a growing trend locally and nationally as people continue working later in life, instead of retiring.
"You have to keep working these days, don't have a choice," said Dottie Manuel, an Experience Works employment and training coordinator for eight Pennsylvania counties including York. "They need money for medicine, food, housing, everything."
The federal government announced late last year that it would not increase benefits for Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees. It was the third time since 2010 that payments remained flat.
The number of York County residents 65 years and older who are working jumped from 10,801 in 2006 to 11,427 in 2009 and 15,076 in 2014, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Manuel, 69, was previously a participant in the Experience Works program when she was in danger of losing her home, she said. She has no plans of retiring in the future.
"I don't intend to quit till I die," Manuel said. "It isn't good to retire. We want to work."
Cedrone, who was retired for about three years before beginning the program, echoed Manuel's sentiment.
"I just like people, I prefer to be working," she said, adding that she needs to have additional income to support her "shopaholic" tendencies.
Women, in particular, are delaying retirement more than in the past.
According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, one in 12 women worked past age 65 in 1992. That number is now approximately one in seven, and the department projects it to grow to one in five by 2024.
Manuel said she currently has 90 senior citizens placed throughout her eight counties, and about half are women.
Finding work tough: Cahoon, who's been in the program for three years, said she hopes to retire by the time she turns 75, but it depends on her financial situation.
Experience Works, formerly Green Thumb, operates in 30 states and Puerto Rico, according to its website. Participants, who must be 55 years or older, earn minimum wage for 18-20 hours of work per week and can remain on the program for a maximum of four years, Manuel said.
The goal is to find participants permanent jobs within two years, she added.
Manuel said a major goal of the program is for employers to understand the value of older workers.
"We're faithful, we show up, do whatever we're told and are a valuable asset to the workforce," she said.
Cahoon said her age has been a clear deterrent to employers potentially hiring her.
"They don't tell you it, but when the interviewer asks you what your 10-year goals are, it's obvious," she said.
Manuel said she also places an emphasis on finding work for disabled and veteran seniors.
James Lambert, a 65-year-old legally blind man, recently began training through the program at September House Senior Center in West York.
Lambert's vision became impaired in 2002 after working in factories most of his life, but now he uses his sense of touch to ensure he's properly cleaning items at September House.
"I feel very welcome here," Lambert said. "I never even gave it a thought to stop working."
— Reach David Weissman at email@example.com.