Retirees go back to work

Published 4:02 pm Thursday, December 4, 2008

The alarm clock blares its shrill alert around 5:30 a.m.

About this time, many people bury their heads beneath pillows. But you won’t hear a groan from Kathy Hall.

She’s just happy to have her job at Cobblestone Shoes in Pelham after leaving her 26-year career in the Shelby County School System.

“I tried to stay home for four or five months,” Hall said of life after retirement. “I just couldn’t do it.”

Positive Maturity, an organization that attempts to improve the lives of older adults, saw a 60 percent increase in job fair participants this year. Job counselor Marvin Copes said many didn’t plan well for retirement or have found their savings depleted by the downturn in the economy.

“We’re finding that more and more retirees are looking to go back to work,” Copes said. “But trying to find jobs now for anybody is difficult. We have to do a lot of searching.”

Copes regularly attends chamber of commerce meetings and other workshops to network with companies seeking reliable workers. He said he attempts to enlighten businesses on the benefits of hiring older workers — mainly their reliability and dedication.

Kathy Hall’s husband, Mark, has been dedicated to law enforcement since he was 17. He too left his first career as a police officer only to forgo a laid-back type of retirement. He now works as the director of security for Brookwood Hospital.

“It was really all about economics for me,” Mark said. “By starting early, I could draw retirement and still begin another career. It’s been a tremendous help for us, especially now.”

Kathy has needed surgery, her parents have been ill and she and Mark still want to save for their 15-year-old son’s college education.

“You just don’t know when something will happen,” Kathy said. “It just makes us think more about the need for a bigger safety net.”

Mark said he knows not everyone fairs as well. His type of work continues to be in high demand whereas others have to learn new skills.

Copes agrees that going back to work in a high-tech world poses a lot of challenges. He said many job seekers haven’t been in the market since their 20s, meaning they haven’t updated resumes or been through job interviews in several decades.

“Many job postings and applications can only be found online, which scares (older adults) to death,” Copes said. “It was tough for me, too, because I had never had a typing class in my life, but many jobs look for computer skills. In order to find a new job, retirees have to get that type of training.”

Learning something new can be exciting for retirees and give them purpose, Copes said.

Kathy bought into Cobblestone with part of her retirement and counts herself one of the lucky ones.

“It’s hard to find something you love that also doesn’t stress you out,” she said. “I’m learning so much more than I would have if I had kept teaching.”