By Iryna Shkurhan
Clad in professional attire with a surplus of printed resumes on hand, over a hundred older adults arrived at the senior job fair in Kew Gardens on May 5 in search of their next opportunity.
After a pandemic hiatus, the yearly job fair for adults 55 and older hosted by State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. since 2011 is back in person. Close to a dozen companies, including New York Life Insurance, Council for Airport Opportunity and Personal Touch Home Care, were present looking to fill vacant roles for a range of positions that they believe seniors are especially suited for.
“Seniors are a valuable part of our population, and we need to ensure that they have the necessary tools to find the work they need in order to sustain independent and healthy lives,” said Addabbo, who represents much of central Queens.
One in four U.S. workers will be 55 or older by 2030, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. The trend has seen steady growth in the past two decades, due to an increase in life expectancy and a decrease in fertility rates in younger generations.
Wilda Collado spent 34 years in a travel-heavy role managing accounts in the jewelry business before the pandemic turned the industry upside down. In 2022, she was able to secure a job as a Health and Wellness Coach at Jenny Craig, but her entire team was laid off without notice earlier this month.
“It’s been really tough,” said Collado, a 55-year-old longtime Jackson Heights resident. “Every time you click on a job on Indeed, it’s like 500 people applied for this job already, or even 1000.”
Adapting to the job hunt in the digital world can be difficult for seniors who first entered the workforce when searching through the classified section of a newspaper was commonplace. Now, there are a slew of job boards online that often require digital savviness to navigate, which many seniors feel they lack.
At Queens Community Center, which has five older adult care centers across the borough, computer literacy classes are in high demand. A weekly class is held at the Kew Gardens location where seniors have learned how to copy and paste, send emails or search for something on their cell phone, according to the staff.
“I think it’s crucial to show older adults that we know that they still have things to contribute, and experiences from which they have crucial knowledge,” said Anne Foerg, Associate Executive Director of Older Adult Services at Queens Community House. “Someone who’s an older adult, with experience, can still offer a lot in 20 hours a week. It gives them an opportunity to stay engaged and to stay connected.”
A recruiter for New York Life Insurance Company was seeking sales agents for a hybrid commission based role that includes full-benefits and hefty training. At another table, a representative for New York State Agencies informed attendees about the Emergency Limited Placement (HELP) program which removes the civil service exam requirement for various direct care, health and safety jobs. Various roles are available at the NYS Office of Addiction, as well as a slew of Departments of Health across the city and SUNY schools.
“We want people who are hard workers, and it’s always a positive, I think I have a wealth of experience, especially in an industry that has a lot of customer service,” said Aaron Miner, a recruiter for the Council for Airport Opportunity, who was seeking applicants for security and customer service roles at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark.
Some recruiters also had nontraditional roles available for jobseekers. A recruiter for Jzanus Home Care Inc. informed attendees of the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) which pays individuals to take care of an elderly family member or friend. They also offered people interested in working in the homecare industry the chance to get paid to complete training and get certified.
“It would be nice if something comes around, and I can get into it, either at home, or go someplace else to do it, like part time or even full time, whatever it works out to be,” said Chuck, a Fresh Meadows resident, who attended the job fair curious about the options for him as a 74-year old retiree.
Previously, he worked for Verizon as a Switch Technician for 46 years until he retired two years ago. Now, he spends most of his time running a cat sanctuary out of his house, while also attending various events and classes at the center.