More seniors postponing retirement

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COLUMBIA - In 2014 older workers represent 14.2 percent of Missouri's work force, according to Experience Works, a national employment training non-profit organization.

At 65 many people imagine they'll be retiring and spending their time on vacation and with family members. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics states the number of working seniors is increasing. 

Ernie Stewart decided to back to work at 64, teaching Adult Learning Education courses at the Columbia Career Center. He said it's the most rewarding job he has ever had.

"It's challenging. One thing about teaching is there is always something different, something always comes up, especially in adult basic education," Stewart said. "There is a lot of coaching involved, it's a little bit like management only you don't have to but up with the grief of employees."

Stewart is one of thousands of seniors who have pushed back retirement for reasons including an economic crisis in 2007 as well as wanting to stay active. Stewart said one reason he returned to work is because he feels there are some health benefits to it.  

"If I don't stay active, I get extremely boring and bored with life," Stewart said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force participation rate among seniors has continued to increase, from 11.5 percent in 1992 to 18.5 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, the unemployed rate in that group has also increased, from 2.3 percent in 1990 to 4.7 percent in 2014. This means more seniors are looking for work, and while some are succeeding others are not. 

A national non-profit organization called Experience Works provides training and paid community service assignments in 30 states and Puerto Rico. The organization's Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) helps update job skills and build confidence for individuals age 55 and older who are struggling to find work.

"We help older workers get the skills they need to be successful, while offering employers skilled and qualified candidates for local job openings," said Shari Wooldridge, Missouri Employment and Training Coordinator for Experience Works. Wooldridge operates the SCSEP program in 102 Missouri counties.

Based on their employment interests and goals participants are assigned to qualified nonprofit organizations or government agencies on a part-time basis. Previous work experience and skills are taken into account to match workers with the right job. Participants work for maximum of 20 hours a week at minimum wage. They receive training and experience directly from their host agencies but their wages and benefits are paid by Experience Works.

During the 2013-2014 year, the program provided services to more than 950 seniors in Missouri. Program participants worked 529,400 hours at more than 475 local agencies.

In 2013-2014 year, Boone County participants provided more than 11,900 hours of services to various agencies like Harbor House, Heart of Missouri Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Central Pantry, Community Action, Love Seat, Job Point and other organizations.

In order to be eligible for the Experience Works SCSEP program, individuals must meet the following criteria:

· 55 years or older

· Unemployed

· Annual family income must not be more than 125% of the established federal poverty income

For more information on how you can apply for the program contact Shari Wooldridge: 1 (877) 872-4740, or visit