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Division of Older Worker Programs

Employment and Training Administration

United States Department of Labor


Different Needs,

Different Strategies:

A Manual for Training Low-Income, Older Workers

Dorothea Gross

The National Senior Citizens Education & Research Center, Inc.

8403 Colesville Road, Suite 1200

Silver Spring, Maryland 20910-3314

This publication was prepared for the United States Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the DOL or its employees.



A Manual for Training Low-Income, Older Workers





















This is the second in a two-part series on the training needs of low-income, older workers. It was authored by Dorothea Gross, consultant to the National Senior Citizens Education and Research Center's Senior AIDES Program.

This publication was prepared under the auspices of Department of Labor Grant No. D-6636-8-00-81-55 to the Senior AIDES Program of the National Senior Citizens Education & Research Center, Inc. in Silver Spring, Maryland.


The programs highlighted in this manual are only four examples of the many fine public programs that are successfully training older, low-income workers for jobs in their communities. Throughout the United States, public funds are being used collaboratively by private, nonprofit organizations to train older workers with skills needed in today's workforce. The following people and organizations are responsible for the training programs reported in this publication. All receive funding through a variety of federal, state and local programs and the National Senior Citizens Education and Research Center, Inc.


Ms. Cathy Savoy, Director of Employment & Training Programs

Franklin County Home Care Corporation

330 Montague City Road

Turner Falls, MA 01376


Mr. Ron Veklotz, Senior Coordinator of Aging Services

Chautauqua County Office for the Aging

Mayville, NY 14757


Mr. Man Nam Ma, Director

of Employment Programs

Chinese-American Planning Council

55 Sixth Avenue #508

New York, NY 10013


Mr. Paul Magnus, Director

Senior Employment Center

Senior Workers Action Program

415 S. Portage Path

Akron, OH 44320


Throughout the United States, low-income, older workers are being prepared for jobs in a job market that is increasingly competitive. These adults are, in many cases, the hardest to serve. Their ages and their employment histories limit their prospects for employment. Yet, they are being hired and being hired in jobs that provide benefits and compensation beyond the minimum wage.

Public employment and training programs are making this happen. Co-enrollment in the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) Five Percent Set-Aside Program and the Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP) has provided the work experience and training necessary to bring a segment of the population that has been largely discounted back into the workforce. These are people who want and need to work. Without training, the only jobs they could qualify for would be low-paid, unskilled jobs with no chance for advancement.

Not just any training program works for low-income, older adults. There are physical, mental and emotional characteristics of older, low-income adults that must be addressed if the training is to be successful. Sections 2.0 - 7.0 of this manual provide information on what these characteristics are and how to design training to fit the needs of older trainees. Some of this material is included in Part I, "Unique Training Requirements of Low-Income, Older Workers: A Resource Manual for Senior Community Service Employment Program Practitioners," of this two-part series. Both manuals are available from the U.S. Department of Labor, Division of Older Workers.

This second manual also provides four detailed examples of employment and training programs that use public funds collaboratively to train low-income, older workers to compete in today's job market. These programs are all community-based. They are run by creative program operators who know what's available in their areas and know how to access resources. All four of the programs presented are comprehensive and multifaceted. They have all been successful in finding good jobs for the low-income, older workers who complete the training.


"Different Needs, Different Strategies" is addressed to anyone who has any connection with programs for training low-income, older workers. It is intended to be helpful in pointing out why training courses need to be tailored to the special characteristics of this group. It is hoped that readers will act as advocates in their local communities to see that future public training programs do not ignore the special needs of low-income, older workers.



Note: The statistics in this section are from "The Aging Baby Boom: Implications for Employment and Training Programs," prepared for the Department of Labor by Stacy Poulos and Demetra Smith Nightingale of The Urban Institute.

By the year 2005, it is estimated that there will be almost 23% more economically disadvantaged(1) mature and aged adults than in 1995. The number of adults over 45 in this classification is predicted to grow from 11.9 million to 14.6 million. The largest growth increase (50%) is expected with those who are 55-59 years old. The number of economically disadvantaged 50-54-year-olds is estimated to grow by almost 44%.

There will be about 1.4 million more 55+ poor people in 2005.

Low-income, older workers need to find decent, well-paid jobs.

The U.S. culture has changed.

The 55 and older adults that have been eligible for federally-funded programs under the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) and the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) are expected to increase in number from 8.2 million in 1995 to 9.6 million in 2005. This is in contrast to an expected three-quarters of a million decrease in the number of economically disadvantaged 25 to 34-year-olds for the same period.

Older workers with incomes at or near the poverty level do not have the adequate pensions or the savings or equities that would permit them to retire from the workforce. Even those 62 and older will probably have social security income that is inadequate for subsistence. Low-income, older workers want and need to work.

Without training, the jobs low-income older workers get will keep them poor

People are living healthier and longer than in previous decades. They move more often than they used to - families are more separated geographically. The extended family where younger family members assimilate the older members into their lives and care for them still exists, but it is far less common. The "old maid" stigma is gone and many more women are unmarried by choice. Historically, older single women are poorer than married women.

Divorce is common and generally accepted; the current U.S. divorce rate is 47.4 percent. Women are still outliving their husbands and some find that, without their spouse, they have joined the ranks of the poor. Many older widowed or divorced women who never wanted to or had to work find themselves needing a job to support their families. A serious illness occurring to one spouse can throw the family into poverty. Ethnic groups are the hardest hit and the poorest members of this society.

The workplace has become more global and competitive.

Even in the best of times, older workers have a hard time finding jobs. /

Training is not a luxury; it's a necessity.

When older adults compete with younger adults for training, they lose out.

Performance standards favor younger workers.

The new law has no set-asides for older workers.

Benchmarks for servicing older workers under the new act.

Older workers have been particularly affected by such workplace changes as downsizing, increased use of technology and less hierarchical work structures. During the downsizing that took place in the 1986-1991 period, proportionally more older workers were laid off. And, at the expense of older workers, firms spent more on training new employees (Imel 1996).

In a June 16,1998 Daily Report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on a survey released at the 50th annual conference of the Society for Human Resource Management that indicates that only about one-third of surveyed organizations seek to recruit or retain older workers.

A Wall Street Journal article on the downsizing in the 90s reviewed in a June 26, 1998 BLS Daily Report states that older workers who lose their jobs have the hardest time finding new ones. Only about one-half of the over 55 workers displaced in 1993-1994 were re-employed by February 1996, the most recent data for which statistics are available.

There's a high correlation between training and employment. Employers want people who can turn out productive work in the shortest amount of time. Some list "flexibility" as the most important trait they want in workers. Flexibility requires self-confidence and self-confidence requires training.

People cannot feel self-confident if they don't know what they're doing.

Most jobs today, even on the lowest level, require some knowledge of the advanced technology that is running our businesses and other institutions. Some older workers fortunate enough to have jobs receive training from their employers or learn from their fellow workers. Unemployed low-income, older workers, however, can't find work without training and can't afford training until they get a job. It's a "Catch 22" situation.

Only a small number of 55+ older workers are currently receiving training under federally-funded programs. The majority of these are participants in the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which serves less than one percent of those eligible for the program. The only program under the Job Training Partnership Act that specifically serves this population is the 5% older worker set-aside. This program is discontinued under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which becomes fully effective July 1, 2000.

The SCSEP remains as the only federal training program that explicitly serves 55 years and older, low-income adults.

Older workers can, of course, use the public training services that are open to all adults regardless of age. This has not worked very well in the past. The JTPA IIA program, for instance, is open to all economically disadvantaged adults 22 years old and older. In 1995, 176,000 adults participated in JTPA programs beyond initial assessments. Of these, only two percent (3513) were 55 or older.

This low participation rate could be explained by saying that older people are less likely to seek public training services. Yet in the 5% set-aside JTPA program, more than two and a half times more older workers were served than in the IIA program.

The current emphasis on performance standards acts to push public training programs to direct their attention to those most likely to be hired quickest and at the best salaries. Low-income, older workers cannot compete with younger workers when these standards are imposed.

Under the new workforce investment legislation, older workers will be served under the adult training component. The new law lowers the age of "adults" to 18. Older persons will now be competing for training services with an even younger group than under the old JTPA IIA.

There are many actions that can be taken at the state and local levels to assure adequate services for low-income, older workers. Older worker advocates could become part of the local Workforce Investment Board. The National Association of State Units on Aging (NASUA) has developed a set of benchmarks that can be used to assess the strengths and weaknesses of workforce development reform efforts in responding to the needs of mature and older workers. The publication,"Assessing Workforce Development Systems: Benchmarks for Mature and Older Workers," was developed collaboratively with national, state and local administrators, providers and advocates of mature and older worker programs and services.

Additional information on the new act is provided in "Implications and Opportunities in the Workforce Investment Act for the Senior Community Service Employment Program," another recent publication available from the Division of Older Worker Programs of the Department of Labor. This publication points out opportunities to increase services to older workers by merging resources and services from multiple funding streams and the necessity that operators of the programs actively pursue these opportunities.



In federal training programs, low-income, older workers are 55 years old or older with incomes that are at or near the federal poverty level. They are usually men and women with limited employment prospects; many are without substantial employment histories, basic skills and English language proficiency.

Who Are the Low-Income Older Adults Who Need Training to Find Jobs?

Older, low-income workers may come from all walks of life. Many are widowed, divorced or single women who have spent their lives as homemakers and now find it necessary to make money to supply their food, shelter and clothing needs. These women have no work-outside-the-home experience or current marketable experience and skills.

Others may be men and women who were laid off from downsizing industries who find themselves with obsolete skills and the need to reinvent themselves.

A number of those eligible for publicly-funded training are discouraged workers who were unemployed for so long they gave up the search for employment. Or they may be disabled veterans or homeless men and women who are ready for a fresh start.

In certain parts of the country there are large numbers of older people who lack basic skills or are not English-speaking and/or not literate in their own language. There are also significant numbers of older people living in rural areas where job opportunities are scarce and public transportation is nonexistent. They need help in finding jobs.

Low-income, older workers may have graduate degrees, but be down on their luck as a result of illnesses or other traumatic experiences, or they may be men and women with little or no education who have been living on the fringe for most or all of their adult lives.


Being older and poor makes it twice as hard for older workers to find good jobs at decent wages. People all over the world have accepted myths about the abilities of older workers which are not true.

Common stereotypes portray older workers as:

Harder to train

Less able to keep up

with technological change

Less promotable

Less motivated..

Training programs must be tailored to the age and economic circumstances of their customers.

Myths about older workers are pervasive not only among potential employers, but also, unfortunately, among older workers themselves. Older workers on all socioeconomic levels have more difficulty finding jobs than younger workers. Older workers who are also at or near the poverty level have the additional baggage of damaged self-confidence from many years of not achieving the financial success so valued in our society. These dual barriers of age and low income cannot be ignored when planning training for low-income, older workers.

Age affects training.

Aging does affect some functions but not affect the ability to perform moderate physical work.

The mature brain is different.

There is a marked correlation between age and training needs. Instructional methods differ in kindergarten, elementary school, junior high and high schools to relate to the developmental stages of children and teenagers. Colleges and universities use different teaching methods from high schools. Adult education and vocational courses use techniques specific to their students' requirements. Training programs need to consider the physical, mental and social needs of the recipients of their training. These needs change as people age.

Functions such as vision, hearing, reaction time and memory have a strong dependence on the body and its level of functioning and are likely to change with age. With aging, the prevalence of arthritis increases and the connective tissue in joints stiffens which may affect the ability to move. At low to moderate levels of physical work age does not affect the ability to perform work, but does result in a somewhat longer time to recover from work (Manheimer, 1995).

The mature brain is neither better or worse than the brain in earlier years of development. It is just different (Restak 1997). Aging is generally a time of slowing, not only of gait and motor performance and metabolic processes, but also of certain intellectual and recall functions (Henig 1985). The ability to store information does not seem to be affected by aging. It is the retrieval process that slows down. It is generally agreed that all age levels can learn. Older persons can usually learn anything younger people can, but they need to be given more time. Extra time is needed both to learn the information or skill and to demonstrate that the learning has occurred (Manheimer 1995).

Abilities that require quick thinking, such as timed matching tests, decline after age forty as a result of the changes in response speed that are age-related (Manheimer 1995).

Some gerontologists today are issuing optimistic reports about the life of the mind. Among their findings:

Most old people remain throughout life as intelligent as they ever were.

When intelligence scores do decline with age, speed of performance is usually the cause.

On self-paced tests, even those involving the incorporation of new types of abstract information, older people perform better than they do on timed tests.

  Scores on intelligence tests decline less over time for people with a higher educational level and higher initial scores than for less educated or less intelligent peers, either because the education itself provides some protective effect or because it is associated with a lifestyle in which the mind is better used.

Many people seem to become more forgetful with age; this may be due primarily to a slowdown in information retrieval, rather than to a total obliteration of the memory trace.

If taught to store new information more efficiently, the ability to retrieve it improves significantly (Henig 1985).

The physical and mental changes that do occur can be compensated for by effective training designs. Training programs need to be responsive to the changes in the body and mind that are normal and natural to the aging process.

Income levels affect training.

Generally, income determines social class. Social class in turn affects aging by influencing the attitudes, beliefs and values people use to make life course choices and by limiting opportunities, particularly in terms of education and jobs. Higher income usually brings greater resources - knowledge, better health, greater retirement income. Many of the problem aspects of aging are concentrated among the working class and the poor. Age disqualification happens mainly to those who are already relatively disadvantaged, not to the rich and powerful or those people with exceptional skills. It has been said, for example, that people like Picasso never had a day's worry about age discrimination.

Older, low-income men and women need practical training that recognizes the special needs of mature adults based on income-related conditions. Training needs to deal with the fact that many of the participants are people who have no recent or pertinent work experience or have unsuccessful or intermittent employment histories. People without a background of occupational competence and success have significant self-esteem and self-confidence problems that must be recognized in the training process.

Older, low-income people who want and need to work need special training to help them:

Uncover the positive aspects of their backgrounds and how these aspects can be valuable to employers.

Determine the kind of work they want to do and the nature of the training that will help them get this work.

Examine what they perceive as barriers to obtaining their employment and training goals and what is needed to overcome these barriers.

Become skilled in the new workplace technologies.

Assessments are important.

Self-esteem issues must be addressed.

Previous work and life experience need to be valued and utilized.

Older women have special needs.

Women are the oldest and the poorest of the elderly poor.

Older women have unused talents.

Assessment tools such as the Individual Development Plan (IDP) and the Individual Service Strategy (ISS) will be extremely helpful in the identification process. Developing personal assessments is time well spent and is invaluable in determining training needs and personal barriers to training and employment. The assessment process will also help identify the need for special social services. Urgent needs for such things as food and housing must be met before addressing training possibilities.

People with histories of economic failure need individual and/or group sessions to work on their self-esteem issues. Such sessions could include: role playing and rehearsal, assertiveness training, videotaping of interviews, modeling of effective behavior by program staff, continuous encouragement, realistic self-evaluation methods and formulas for dealing with depression and anger (Plett/Lester 1991). Low-income older workers require the kind of practical skills training that will help them compete in an age-conscious job market. First, however, they need to be convinced that they are capable and worthy to compete.

Trainers of low-income older workers must also recognize that although training participants may have suffered some significant setbacks in their lives, they bring to the training lifetimes of experiences and highly developed survival techniques. Older workers need to be taken seriously and treated with respect. Many times they don't get this respect, even though they have survived life events that would humble the best of us.

Training Needs of Low-Income Older Women.

Women make up the largest percentage of older workers eligible for federal training programs. For example, more than 72% of SCSEP enrollees are women - the great majority without work histories or with intermittent work histories. These are women who may have taken time off to raise children, care for aging parents or both. Many may still be giving time and support to grandchildren, children and parents.

Women in their sixties today were born in the thirties and grew up in the turbulent years of the depression and World War II. This generation was unlikely to go to college or to pursue professional careers. They were expected to be homemakers and mothers while their husbands went into the work place and "brought home the bacon." The poorest women in the society worked in other people's homes, on farms or in factories in jobs that provided little or no training and no pensions or potential for savings.

Why do more older women need to work? The Administration on Aging's "Profile of Older Americans: 1997" reports the median income of older persons in 1995 was $16,684 for males and $9,626 for females. Older women's poverty rates have consistently been higher than those of older men. Retirement incomes for older women are only 55% as high as for men. For nearly one-third of divorced or widowed elderly women, Social Security represents 90% of their income, and many older women have little or no Social Security income. The major sources of income reported by older persons are Social Security, income from property (assets), public and private pensions, earnings and public assistance, in that order. This income is mostly the result of how much you earned and saved as a worker. Usually the more money you earn in your working years, the more affluent your elder years are.

Older women workers need to develop basic, occupational and job search skills. Those women who did work outside the home were often in low-paying jobs in the service and factory sectors which require few skills and offer few opportunities for higher level training. Also, many women worked in part-time jobs which did not offer training opportunities.

Many of these women have had few educational opportunities and may require training in basic language and math education as well as in occupational and job search skills.

Training Should Help Women Realize Their Strengths. Today's older women who have never worked outside the home or who have spent most of their lives as homemakers tend to down play the skills that have helped them survive the economic and personal crises in their lives. These women are survivors and they have many practical skills which they may discount as unimportant. They have gained management and interpersonal skills through raising children, managing homes and volunteering in their communities. Effective training will help women recognize and build on their functional, transferrable skills. Minority women, particularly immigrants, have crafts and other skills that are not usually found in North America and could be promoted as entrepreneurial possibilities.

The women who seek training have taken a step toward helping themselves become financially independent. They need to believe that they can learn skills that will make it possible to get a good job in the private sector. Older, low-income women with limited or no work histories need intensive training in skills that are marketable in their local communities. Thousands of women in public training programs today are being trained to use computers and other advanced equipment. This training prepares them to compete for the jobs that will enhance their present and future incomes.


Professionals who work with low-income, older adults point out distinct differences in working with younger and older adult workers. Some of the differences are generational. There are dramatic changes in attitudes and customs between people born in the 1920s and thirties and later generations. The great depression left an indelible impression on these older workers. Cultural biases against women working outside of the home, the lack of emphasis on the importance of education, the dominance of the manufacturing sector which characterized the society of today's older workers are long gone. Today's older workers lived through a series of wars and societal changes that younger people never experienced and those who were not economically successful had years of frustration and failure that should be addressed.

Older, Low-Income Workers Have Generational and Social Attributes That Influence the Effectiveness of Training.

Training for older workers needs to be slowed down.

With more time, older workers can learn to perform new tasks with fewer mistakes than younger workers.

Many differences in working with older adults simply have to do with the changes that take place in the aging process. Why, for instance, would most older people want long-term training? Younger adults can look forward to decades of employment, while older workers' time is limited. Older, low-income workers have expenses and commitments that need immediate addressing. Most are interested in training that will put them in jobs quickly. But experience shows that training works best for them when it is slowed down - longer-term training in technical skills seems to produce better results.

In general, older persons need more time in the learning process than younger adults. Older adults can take up to two times as long to learn a new task or skill. In "America's Work Force Is Coming of Age," Catherine Fyock states that like the general population, not all adults learn at the same rates of speed. For many older adults it may take up to two times as long to learn new information because of the way the brain changes as aging occurs. This training investment is easily recouped when the longer length of service of most older workers in a single job is considered.

Many low-income, older workers lack self-confidence. Some have had many years of failure, lack of opportunity or just plain bad luck that has worn away their self-esteem. Others, primarily women, never before had to compete in the marketplace and they are insecure and lacking in confidence.

Under-educated older adults may have some or all of the following characteristics:

Lack of confidence

Lack of basic skills

Fear of school (because of past failures)

Inadequate economic resources

Varied academic aptitudes

Different values, goals, attitudes

Lack of experience in goal setting

Feelings of helplessness (Moore n.d.).

Effective training should recognize that techniques to build self-esteem and self-confidence must be an integral part of any job skills or job search training activity.

Today's Employers Want Flexible Employees.

Increased competition requires flexible workers.

The 90's are a time when businesses are seeking to be more and more competitive. There is more downsizing, an increased use of technology and greater use of team work structures. Employers are looking for workers who can respond to the rapid changes in today's workplace.

Probably the most dramatic differences between younger and older workers are in the way work is viewed. Older workers tend to have steady work habits, are responsible, reliable and satisfied, require less supervision once a task is mastered and demonstrate minimal turnover, tardiness and absenteeism. This so-called "old fashioned" work ethic is no longer the norm among younger people in the workplace.

Younger adults appear to give less weight to loyalty, punctuality and commitment. And it is true that today these traits are less highly valued by employers. In a technological society employers are more interested in creativity, technical expertise and flexibility (AARP 1995, 1989, 1985).

Some Employers Care More About Receptivity to Change Than "Old- Fashioned" Work Ethics.

AARP studies stress employers' concerns about older worker flexibility.

There are still

employers who value and seek out employees with "old fashioned" work ethics.

A recent American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) study, "Valuing Older Workers, A Study of Costs and Productivity," (AARP 1995) reports on 12 case studies of companies spanning a diversity of sizes, industries and geographical locations. Managers in these companies present their impressions of older employees performances in regard to specific skills and traits. These managers rated older workers highly on:



Commitment to quality



They rated older employees weaker on:


Acceptance of new technology

Ability to learn new skills

Physical ability to perform strenuous jobs.

The performance traits cited by managers as most desirable for today's changing workplace and those critical to the company's success in the future are those not always attributed to today's older workers. These traits are:


Receptivity to change

Acceptance of new technology

Willingness to seize opportunities to demonstrate initiative and exercise independent judgement.

Two earlier AARP studies, "Workers Over 50: Old Myths, New Realities," (AARP 1985) and "Business and Older Workers" similarly reported that employers perceived older workers very positively for their experience, knowledge, work habits and attitudes. Their negative perceptions of older workers centered around questions about older workers' flexibility, adaptability to technology and aggressive spirit. AARP's more recent study seems to confirm these findings.

Older worker practitioners have reported many attributes of older, low-income persons that indicate low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. Problems in these two personality areas would, of course, have profound effects on workers' flexibility and receptivity to change.

Training programs need to be ready to help to develop behaviors that are valued in America's competitive, technological society. With proper training, older people can learn to be more flexible and comfortable with new technologies. Fostering these traits should be an essential element of any training for older workers. Programs which provide older workers with an opportunity for gaining work experience and training in areas of their choice without the fear of being fired or laid off, can help foster the self-esteem and self- confidence which promote flexibility in workers.

Conventional Traits Are Still Valued By Employers.

There still are, and there will continue to be, many jobs where conventional traits of older workers are highly valued. Unfortunately, many of these jobs are in industries that pay low wages, provide little or no benefits and offer few chances for advancement. Any effective training program must acknowledge both the positive and negative attributes of its trainees and design the instruction around these attributes, as well as their employment needs and goals and the local job market.


People's senses tend to dim with age. Training environments should provide for the changes in eyesight and hearing that affect older people. No training can take place if trainees can not see the visuals that will be used and cannot hear the trainer.

Physical factors have to be considered when designing the training setting in terms of lighting, noise, temperature, seating arrangements and number and length of rest periods. Adequate lighting and good acoustics are particularly important when training older people.

Vision Changes Require Attention.

Aging affects sight.

Hearing changes with age.

Seating arrangements can promote cooperation among trainees.

Classrooms that are too hot or too cold inhibit learning.

Sessions should be kept short. Smaller classes work better.

Increasing age decreases the ability of the eye to change shape and focus on very near objects. Older people need more light than younger people, making night driving more difficult. The lens of an older person's eye yellows and filters out violet, blue and green colors (Manheimer 1995).

Visual aids should have large, easy-to-read print with a high contrast, not with a glossy finish, particularly laminated pages or posters. Avoid posting training material above eye level. Many older people wear bifocals and have difficulty looking up to read training materials. Do not use low contrast colors like blues, greens or pastels; they're hard to see (Fyock 1990).

Age-related changes in the ability to discriminate among sounds make speech more difficult to hear, especially when people talk fast, when there is background noise or when there is distortion or reverberation. Twenty-five percent of women and thirty percent of men have difficulty hearing faint speech and five percent can't hear amplified speech (Manheimer 1995). The trainer needs to check at the beginning of a session to be sure everyone can hear. If the room is very large, or if the acoustics are not good, the trainer should use a microphone.

Older Workers Prefer Less Formal Seating Arrangements.

Seating arrangements may vary with the types of training. In most cases older workers prefer sitting in groups around a table. This provides a place to put training materials plus a writing surface. It also promotes socialization among trainees and provides a more supportive learning atmosphere than conventional classroom seating by rows.

Training Proceeds Better in Comfortable Classroom Environments.

In some classrooms the temperature control mechanism may cause the room to be too hot or too cold. The trainer needs to be alert to how this can affect the learning process. Many older people have arthritis which increases sensitivity to cold temperatures. When there is no way of adjusting the temperature, trainers may discuss the problem with the class and have them, where possible, adjust their clothing.

Shorter Sessions Are More Effective.

Sitting for long periods in classrooms is uncomfortable for people of all ages, but it is particularly uncomfortable to older persons. Training sessions should provide frequent breaks for using the rest rooms or just moving around the room. Trainers should prepare their presentations in shorter modules and provide a variety of learning activities. It is too much to expect a group of older people to maintain interest during an hour and one-half uninterrupted lecture.

The Training Class is Best When Kept Small.

If possible, keep the training group size small, with no more than twelve people per class. The smaller the class size, the more individual attention the trainer can provide. This is important, especially when teaching technical skills.


An average sixty-year-old's eye admits only one-third as much light as the eye of a twenty-year-old. Greater levels of illumination are required by older people.

With age, the eye gradually yellows affecting the perception of colors. It is much easier for older people to see yellow, orange and red than darker colors (Manheimer 1995).

When both words and pictures are used, older persons can retain six times more information than with just words (Lester 1984).


Trainers for older worker training sessions need to be aware of the attributes and needs of participants and how best to deal with them. When possible, older trainers should be used to teach older workers. Many times older trainers are more knowledgeable about learning differences and can structure the learning environment to the older workers' needs. They make excellent role models for the trainees, and older workers have reported that they feel more comfortable when the instructor is an older adult.

Understand the physical, mental and social needs of low-income, older workers.

Use techniques to improve worker's confidence and self-esteem.

Are enthusiastic, up-beat.

Treat participants with respect.

Listen. Reflect patience and understanding.

Draw on the practical experiences of participants.

Provide structured and definable experiences.


Make learning an active process.

Keep the training process simple. Repeat instructions.

Speak clearly and distinctly.

Speak slowly.

Eliminate jargon and acronyms -- at least at first.

Acknowledge growth and learning of participants.

Link learning with rewards that recognize achievements such as award luncheons, recognition articles in newsletters, etc.


The training focus should be on the gains of experience.

The training process should focus on the gains of aging - not the losses. Older people are rich in experience. They have had lifetimes in problem solving. Older workers do not lose their learning capabilities, adaptability and inclination to high productivity. If they were not serious about wanting to improve the quality of their lives, they would not have enrolled in the training program. Unlike school children, they are in a learning situation because they choose to be.

Older workers learn what they think they need to learn.

Training should provide practical experience that will lead to unsubsidized employment or the alleviation of barriers that affect employment. The more clear the relationship of the training to actual jobs in the community, the more effective the training. Trainers need to be familiar with the local job market and provide trainees with job availability information. The training needs to be practical, not theoretical, and trainees must understand why they are learning and how the information can be applied. It is important to advise people entering training what they are to learn and what their performance requirements will be. Training must be designed to teach specific skills at an identified performance level.

Trainees need help with self-confidence self-esteem issues.

The trainer needs to help trainees live with their doubts and fears while developing the skills necessary to perform at a personally satisfying and socially successful level.

Group or individual activities that can be used to build up confidence include role playing and rehearsal, assertiveness training, self evaluations, and using videos for practice interviews. The techniques developed by professionals in sections 8.0-11.0 have been successful in working with older adults.

When older workers are reminded to inventory their skills and relate them to jobs, they usually find that they have much more to offer employers than they thought. Many older workers have never taken the time to really look at all of the things they have done in their lives that are useful in the job market.

Older trainees value non-verbal more than verbal training.

Older trainees learn through activating the senses. 75 percent of this learning is through the sense of sight, 13 percent through the sense of hearing, six percent through the sense of touch, three percent through the sense of smell and three percent through the sense of taste (Belbin and Belbin 1972).

Classrooms should be set up, as discussed in Section 5.0, to compensate for the sensory changes that are normal for older people.

Adults learn by doing.

Nerves from the eye to the brain are 25% denser than those from the ears. For that reason and probably because of television and movies, most people are visual rather than auditory learners. Andrea Nevins, director of the National Eldercare Institute on Human Resources, presented the following information on adult learning at a meeting of the American Society on Aging:

Method Average Rate of


Lecture 5%

Reading 10%

Audio Visual 20%

Demonstrations 30%

Discussions 50%

Practice Doing (Experiential) 75%

The training process should be slowed down.

Studies have shown that when things move too quickly, people's performance and, just as important, their motivation drops steeply. The training process should be kept slow and simple. Instructions should be repeated and learners should repeat their actions.

Nothing is more frustrating to trainees who already feel a lack of confidence in their abilities than not being able to keep up with a fast-paced instructor.

Some trainers may find it easier to do things for the slower-paced trainees. In computer training, for example, some trainers are tempted to press keys for the trainees to speed up the process. This is a bad idea. Trainers need to be patient and allow trainees to do things for themselves at their own pace, no matter how slow.

Keep the training process slow and simple.

Self-paced learning allows trainees to set their own pace.

Mature adults, like all people, are different and learn at different rates. Self-paced learning has been very effective for those who are less confident in their ability to compete with classmates.

Self-paced learning is an especially effective technique when training people to use computers. Computer-based training (CBT), for example, gives the users more control over the speed with which the material comes at them. It doesn't overload the users' senses (Filipczak, B.).

The training should supply ample opportunities for practice.

Trainees need to practice what they are learning while they are learning. Creative trainers find ways to help trainees gain confidence in the skills they are learning. Techniques such as role play, question and answer games, class discussions and skill testing are often used to reinforce the learning process. Wherever possible trainees should have access to the types of machines and equipment they will be using on the jobs for which they are being trained. People learning to use computers need to spend many hours at the keyboard. Training will be useless unless the trainee has access to a computer in out-of-class time. Trainers can direct trainees to libraries and other places where computers are available for practice.

Testing should be used sparingly.

Many older adults fear tests and do not perform well on them. Adults with low self-esteem need positive feedback and testing is usually not a very effective way of practicing what they have learned.

Relating training to skills older workers may already possess increases the effectiveness of the training.

Where possible, it is best to relate training to what the trainee already knows. Training programs for women with limited or no employment histories, for instance, may build on experiences they had as mothers and homemakers. Many women discount these skills and must be convinced of their value. Successful training programs connect what the trainees already know to new skills. A word processing class can build on the trainee's previous knowledge of the typewriter keyboard. All older workers bring knowledge and experience into training programs. The trick is in discovering how to access the knowledge and relate it to the new task being learned.


Anyone who has ever observed small children at play has noticed the differences in risk taking and flexibility even at very early ages. It seems clear that flexibility is more of a personality trait than an attribute that is part of the aging process. There is, however, a strong, enduring myth accepted by young and old alike that older people are "stuck in their ways," are rigidly conservative, resistant to change and antagonistic toward new ideas. This self perpetuating myth is deeply embedded into our consciousness and colors our expectations and interactions with older workers.

Dr. Butler, a prominent gerontologist, is not ascribing to the notion attributed to Pope Alexander VI or Sigmund Freud that character is laid down in final form by the time a person is five years old. He believes that people change and remain open to change until they die. And he says that the idea that older people become less responsive to change because of age is not supported by scientific studies of healthy older people or by everyday observations and clinical psychiatric experience (Butler 1975).

Age alone does not make a person inflexible.

If age alone were the determinant of inflexibility, why would we have so many older people today packing up and moving from their lifelong homes to faraway, unfamiliar retirement places - so many traveling to distant countries where they must adjust to totally foreign cultures and customs - and so many attending colleges, universities and training institutions of all kinds taking courses in technological, business and cultural subjects. Far from resisting change many older people, even those in advanced old age, are actively seeking it out.

It may be that the inflexibility reported by some employers is more a factor of their acceptance of deep-seated stereotypical myths, and inflexible employment practices and working conditions than age. There is little evidence that employers value older workers in hiring and retention practices and older workers may be influenced in their reactions to job-related changes by their fears of what will happen if they do not successfully master the new skills required in the new jobs.

Today's unsettled workplace has not shown itself to be very forgiving and older workers, after all, have much more to lose than younger ones when companies downsize or reorganize.

Unfortunately, some older worker program operators subconsciously believe that enrollees are inflexible and unwilling or unable to learn new technologies. These beliefs are sometimes transferred to enrollees, further damaging their self-confidence.

Many low-income, older workers need help to become more flexible.

It is true that there are older people (as well as young) who are resistant to change. Many of the economically disadvantaged older workers who are candidates for federal employment and training programs fall into this category. Being ready to take a chance on new jobs and training requires a self-confidence and self-esteem that come from past successes.

Most of these men and women who enter these programs have not experienced these successes. Their past experiences may have left them fearful of losing what they have in exchange for the unknown. They may have had experiences in their school days which left them with little or no desire for further training. And they may be the staunchest believers in the myth that older people are inflexible and too old to learn anything new.

But even older workers who are resistant to change are capable of adjusting their attitudes. Most older, low-income workers have had to roll with the punches and adapt to the vicissitudes of their lives. And they have survived. It is important that they are made conscious of all the different things they have done in their lives, the different places they've lived and the amount of change they've already survived.

Subsidized work experience provides an opportunity for older persons to experience change in a forgiving environment.

In programs which offer work experience, low-income, older workers are provided with the opportunity to try various work and training assignments without the fear that they will fail or be fired.

These programs are set up to provide enrollees with a chance to take on new experiences in a protected setting. Enrollees can take chances without threatening their security.

Assessments help older workers find out the skills they need to get the jobs they want.

The assessment process used in JTPA and SCSEP programs is designed to provide program enrollees with the opportunity to take a hard look at where they are now, where they want to go in the future and what they need to do to go there. If done slowly and carefully, the assessments should help enrollees see the importance of training in obtaining their goals.

Many low-income, older workers have never thought in terms of goals; they were too busy surviving. They need to know what their options are. They also need to know about the local job market and be convinced that any training they take will make them more competitive in the job market.

Operators of programs for low-income, older adults need to take advantage of the training opportunities available in their communities or to develop their own training activities. Cooperative relationships need to be developed with one-stop centers, Private Industry Councils, JTPAs, SCSEPs, community colleges, adult education institutions and other training facilities that provide skills training, including literacy training.

Co-enrollment among government training programs is considered to be an exceptionally productive use of public funds.

Experiential training is provided through community work assignments.

Work assignments permit participants to be placed in 20-hour per week community service assignments based on the training and employment goals expressed in their assessments. The governmental or nonprofit (host) agencies where they are placed agree to provide adequate orientation, supervision, instruction and on-the-job training to each enrollee.

Subsidized community service placements provide older workers with:

An opportunity to return to a work environment

On-the-job training

Current work experience

A chance to prove their value as workers and be hired by their host agencies. Community Service Placements Give Participants a Chance to Work in Many Different Environments.

Participants in work experience programs may be placed in any governmental or nonprofit, non-partisan organization certified under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Every community has a large number of these organizations. These host agencies must agree to provide adequate orientation, supervision, instruction and training on the job to each enrollee. They must also make a commitment to hire each enrollee when an appropriate vacancy exists.

A possible list of host agencies would include:

Adult Education Centers

Area Agencies on Aging

Art Galleries and Institutes

Boys Clubs

Commissions or Councils on Aging

Community Action Agencies

Community Centers

Community Colleges

Community Development Agencies


Day Care Centers (Adult or Children)

Domestic Abuse Shelters

Drug Abuse Treatment Centers

Education (Public Schools)

Employment Centers (Public or Non-Profit)

Environmental Protection Services

Ethnic/Cultural Centers

Food Banks


Girls Clubs

Goodwill Industries

Government Offices (Town, City, County,Federal)

Head Start

Health Departments and Centers

Heart Associations

Home Health Care Agencies

Hospices (Public or Nonprofit)

Hospitals (Public or Nonprofit)

Housing Authorities

Legal Aid Societies


Literacy Councils

Medical Clinics (Public or Nonprofit)

Mental Health Agencies

Museums (Public or Nonprofit)

Neighborhood Centers

Nurseries (Children)

Nutrition Programs

Ombudsman Offices

Outreach and Information Referral Programs

Organizations Assisting the Blind or Deaf

Parks Services

Police Departments

Pre-School Centers

Public Information Offices

Red Cross Centers

Rehabilitation Centers

Retarded Persons Centers

Retired Senior Volunteer Services

Salvation Army

Senior Corps of Retired Executives

Senior Citizens Centers

Settlement Houses

Sheltered Workshops

Shelters for Homeless Persons

Social Services Departments

Transportation Departments

United Way Agencies

Veterans Hospitals

Vocational Education Centers

Vocational Rehabilitation

Voluntary Agency Centers

Weatherization Projects

Welfare Departments


Youth Centers

Work assignments in host agencies are expected to improve or expand existing community services or originate services that would not exist without them. Enrollees most commonly work as teachers aides, receptionists, office workers, computer operators, custodians, librarians, child care workers, bookkeepers, drivers and nutrition site managers.

Work programs are designed to meet the needs of the older workers, not host agencies. When host agencies have provided as much training as possible to enrollees, enrollees should be rotated other agencies for more training or to other training positions within the same agency. It is not unusual for host agencies to hire the enrollees rather than see them moved from their agencies.

Older workers become more flexible when they become more self-confident.

One of the synonyms for "self-confident" is "unafraid." It is fear which makes people afraid to take chances, be more flexible, more adaptable and more accepting of new technology. The fear of failure, of being fired, of losing what you have in hand are powerful reasons to resist change.

Older people just by living longer have already suffered many losses of family, friends and sometimes jobs, homes and valued possessions. It does not get easier to accept more losses.

Older workers can lose their fear of failure by being successful in work assignments and in the training provided to them through public programs. Success breeds success. Those who do a good job in their work assignments know they have something of value to offer employers. Those who go through training successfully and come out with valid saleable skills are more comfortable with new ventures.

Providing training and work opportunities for low-income, older adults in situations free from the threat of failure increases their ability to meet the demands of a highly competitive, technological society and adds to the nation's productive workforce. Subsidized work experience encourages flexibility and adaptability by exposing older workers to a variety of work and training environments that are designed to build the self-confidence required for them to be open to new challenges.


Almost every job today requires some knowledge of computers. Preparing older, low-income workers who have limited current work experience for the kinds of jobs readily available in their communities usually includes computer literacy training followed by training in software for word processing and/or data management. There is little doubt that learning to use today's technologically advanced computers presents a challenge to older adults. This, however, is a challenge that is being met successfully in older worker training classes throughout the country where the training is tailored to the unique needs of low-income older workers.

Many employers and trainers are under the impression that older adults can't or won't learn how to use computers. The following excerpt from "Old Dogs, New Tricks" in Training magazine, reprinted with permission from the May 1998 issue, shows how adjusting a training program to the needs of the trainees changes failure to success.

"Training departments attempting to teach computer applications to older learners often fail to consider their special needs, says Suzanne Dunn, a doctoral candidate at the University of North Texas in Denton, who is researching how older adults learn. She offers a case in point: An insurance company decided to hire some older workers for its call center because, it believed, its many elderly customers would relate better to a voice that had some years behind it. So the company recruited and trained a group of mature adults, and then ran them through the same computer training everyone else received. The company's new "old"workers had a high attrition rate during training and substandard performance afterward. The company concluded that hiring seniors was a mistake and that older people couldn't do the job.

The fault didn't lie with the employees or the material, Dunn contends, but with the trainers.'A lot of times trainers don't think about how to accommodate the needs [of an older audience], or they're being pushed to move so quickly that they can't slow down enough to accommodate those needs,' she says. After adjusting the time allotted for its computer training , the same insurance company tried the experiment again , says Dunn. It found that older employees' performance after training was on a par with younger employees'."

The people who plan and implement computer training programs for older workers need to know what older workers, and particularly low-income, older workers, need for effective training. These needs are addressed in previous chapters. These needs call for:

small classes

short sessions, many breaks

teaming older workers with older workers

relaxed seating arrangements

mature instructors

friendly supportive atmospheres

attention to hearing

and sight needs

slow pace of instruction

allowances for interaction with peers

provisions for self-paced


using past experiences

help in building self-confidence

training that is practical

providing time for practice.

It is difficult to learn to use the computer in classes where a trainer is at the front of a classroom and tries to have each person in the class do the same thing at the same time. We all learn new things at our own speed and learning to use the computer is a situation where there are wide variations in the ways and speeds at which people learn. Computers, however, provide trainees with an opportunity for self-paced learning through the use of computer-based training (CBT).

The article in the May 1998 Training discusses the use of CBT by older workers. "The fact is," according to Wendy Rogers, associate professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, "older adults like self-paced training better than the classroom variety because it gives them more control over the speed with which the materials comes at them. And since their access time for information is a bit slower, the patience of a CBT program can be an ideal way to teach them."

The article reports Suzanne Dunn as saying, "Older adults love self-directed and self-paced learning because it doesn't overload the senses. It allows them to go at their own pace, to slow down, and gives them enough retrieval time. Even if the CBT is a multimedia program with lots of bells and whistles, the self-pacing of the course more than offsets the danger of sensory overload." Both Rogers and Dunn warn, however, that much of CBT currently available is tailored to younger users.


Through co-enrollment in JTPA and SCSEP programs, low-income, older workers can receive subsistence wages while receiving substantive second career training in the computer skills required in today's offices. The following is an example of a computer training program that is producing skilled workers.

Older workers in a Massachusetts program are learning complex computer skills.

Typing instruction is provided.

Computer courses cover a wide range of topics.

The Franklin County Home Care Corporation in Turner Falls, MA prepares low-income, older workers with the computer skills necessary to compete for white collar jobs in the area's current critical industries.

The agency's Computer Learning Center provides comprehensive training and skills courses that offer in-depth computer instruction with additional supervised skill development opportunities. The agency also provides trainees with counseling, motivation and other workshops. Self-paced learning is achieved with tutorials to sharpen keyboard skills. The agency's assessment process points out any individual needs which must be addressed for the training to be effective.

Computer skills are taught in small classes as part of a comprehensive office skills training program which is designed to provide trainees with a working knowledge of the skills needed in the modern office. The skills taught in the course include typing, keyboarding, computers, business communications, bookkeeping, word processing, database management, spreadsheets and telecommunications and Internet issues. The program includes 425 hours of instruction, approximately evenly split between computer courses and classroom instruction.

Many low-income, older workers are women who have never worked or who have no recent work experience or men who have never done office work. Many have never learned to use a keyboard. The three-week course in typing provides a solid foundation in typing skills using electronic typewriters. Trainees begin with basic typing by touch and formatting skills, then complete lessons of advancing difficulty to reduce errors and increase speed.

Three separate computer courses will provide trainees with a solid foundation:

Introduction to Computers The course helps the trainee understand what a computer is and how it works. Trainees learn the basics of proper keyboarding and advance at their own pace through speed and confidence building exercises. Hardware and software are explained along with the concepts and operation of DOS and Windows. Participants perform word processing, database and spreadsheet assignments in WORKS for Windows and begin to investigate telecommunications and the World Wide Web.

Internet and Electronic Communications

Trainees in this course gain experience in advanced Windows operation and telecommunications issues. Data access over telephone lines, on-line information services, local bulletin boards and the Internet are discussed. Hands-on practice is provided with electronic mail, Internet browsers and HTML.

Using Microsoft Office Participants will do an introductory and an advanced project using WORD word processor, EXCEL spreadsheet, ACCESS database and POWERPOINT presentations and learn to share information between these applications.

The program also provides instruction in business communications and basic bookkeeping. Open, supervised, computer labs on Friday afternoons offer trainees the opportunity to further practice their skills.

This is only one of many programs throughout the country where federally-funded programs combine to train low-income older workers to use technologically advanced computer software. Success takes time and practice. These programs are run by specialists who recognize that older adults have special training needs and set up training situations where trainees will be successful.


A unique program in Chautauqua County, NY links three separate Senior Community Service Employment Programs and a Private Industry Council with a single service contractor to provide training using JTPA 5% set-aside and SCSEP 502(e) funds. This multi-funded operation provides both coordination and service delivery; it creates a single entry point into a wide range of older worker services.

This is a comprehensive employment and training program designed to help economically disadvantaged older workers reenter the job market. All participants attend an empowerment seminar and may continue with job clubs. They are then referred to various options that might include high school equivalency preparation, computer training, class II commercial drivers license training, personal care aide training or work experience.

The Chautauqua program, which has been in existence since 1987, provides close networking with the New York State Job Service by maintaining ancillary office space in the Department of Labor and Unemployment offices in two cities. These close linkages result in referral to appropriate training opportunities and employment opportunities available in the county.

In addition, a close link exists between the PIC of Chautauqua and Chautauqua County Office on Aging, Additional networking includes the Foster Grandparent Program, Senior Companion Program and the local New York State Employment Offices.

The empowerment program is particularly valuable for rural areas with populations under 150,000 that need to pool older worker programs. The goals of the program are:

The empowerment program goals are specific to low-income, older workers.

The emphasis is on the value of mature workers and what they have to offer.

The sessions are geared to the specific needs of older workers.

To increase opportunities for success by identifying, examining and altering self-defeating behavior which may impede success in training

To reduce anxieties with respect to competing in training or in the labor market.

To provide coping skills to deal with stress resulting from family, personal, job responsibilities and obligations.

To provide assertion skills to cope with discriminatory behavior which may be encountered in a job search or on the job.

To provide information regarding the positive aspects of aging, and be able to market the assets of the older worker.

To provide an opportunity for older persons to express, share and alleviate the fear of being an older person in the job market.

The seminars stress the value of mature workers and acknowledge their frustration and discouragement with being unemployed. They include information on motivating discouraged workers recovering from job losses from downsizings, factory closings, business moves or entering or reentering a different type of job market.

The empowerment sessions require 24 hours, usually four hours per day. The classes are small and are taught by mature trainers. They take place primarily at the New York State Employment Office.

Mature workers are recruited by the development and distribution of public relations and outreach materials, public service announcements, service groups, church groups, etc. Every person 55 and over who is within six weeks of exhausting his or her unemployment benefits is sent a recruitment letter highlighting the Older Workers Program.

The Basic Curriculum

The basic curriculum strives to assess individual needs and address each participant's uniqueness. Daily evaluations, along with final participant evaluations, are distributed to provide continual feedback during the sessions.

Curriculum elements include:

Emphasizing the tremendous assets mature workers have to offer. This will include discussing current employment statistics and realities based on current studies.

Self-assessment tests, values and skills classification workbooks such as "Choosing Your Career," and "A Self-Directed Guide," by Alex Labak, and other resources as appropriate.

Individually administered tests to determine math and reading skills.

Use of "The Decision Making Process" in "A Self-Directed Guide" to emphasize supplying appropriate job information and related skill areas.

Resume preparation.

Competing in a flooded job market.

Exploring the hidden job market.

Employment resources available in your community.

Market letters that get interviews.

Job applications.

Topics like "Legal Questions,"and "Employee Rights and Redress."(Presented by a New York State Employment Service representative.)

Interviewing techniques.

Stress management and assertiveness training exercises, including a "Social Readjustment Scale" for self-analysis.

Presentations by representatives of SCSEP, Social Security Office and the Office on Aging.

Presentation for entrepreneurs - how and where to begin.

As a follow-up, participants are encouraged to attend the basic computer course offered at the local PIC office to enhance their employability. In addition to the seminar, participants can take skills training to become commercial drivers, personal care workers or security guards. Work experience is also offered.

Upon completion of the training, component staff assists clients in the job development stage of the program through job club workshops.

The operators of the program attribute its success to the coordination and cooperation among mature worker programs within the service area, the provision of individualized training to meet the particular interests of the mature workers and the emphasis that is placed on the value of mature workers.


In many parts of the U.S., there are large numbers of poor, older people whose language problems act as barriers to their employment. A program in New York's Chinatown has been particularly successful in providing participants with the training necessary to get good jobs in their communities. This program provides graduates with certification as home attendants and training enabling the older workers to speak, understand, read and write English in job situations. It also includes a job search skills course to help participants become familiar with the work environment in America and provides related work experience for those who are not immediately hired upon graduation.

The Chinese-American Planning Council, Inc. in New York City uses JTPA and SCSEP funds to provide training to low-income, older workers that will enable them to make good wages as New York State certified home attendants. Separate English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are provided for those with no foundation in English and for those with some English-speaking ability. All participants attend the home attendant training which is taught by a bilingual instructor.

Trainees are taught to use English in work situations.

The home attendant training results in state certification.

Job search techniques are provided through a "World of Work" course.

Subsidized work experience is also offered.

Home attendants make good pay and benefits.

Post-placement follow-up guarantees satisfaction.

The English language training consists of 157.5 hours of instruction in topics related to work situations. The nine units include:

Meeting People

Talking About Occupations

Servicing the Client

Using Time, Days, Dates, Seasons, Numbers

Getting Around Town

Making Telephone Calls

Shopping at the supermarket

Running Errands for the Client

Hosting the Graduation Ceremony.

The performance requirements for this training ensure that the trainees are able to communicate their clients' needs in the community.

The training consists of these eight units that require 126 hours of time:

Introduction (Explaining home health care and how to work with clients)

Basic Nutrition

Basic Medical Knowledge

Personal Care

Home Safety

Time and Money Management

Special Care

Clients Social Needs and Mental Health.

The performance requirements here ensure that those who finish the course will have a comprehensive knowledge of their duties as home attendants and their role in a health care service team.

Graduates receive New York State Personal Care Aide Certificates.

The World of Work training consists of nine weeks of three and one-half hours weekly sessions, usually on an afternoon from 1:30 to 5:00 PM. It includes such job search topics as:

Filling Out Job Applications

Writing Resumes

Requesting References

Preparing for Interviews

Communicating with supervisors

Serving Difficult Clients

Becoming the Ultimate Team Worker.

The course uses textbooks provided by the New York State Department of Labor, lectures, discussions, classwork and homework.

As a condition for graduation, the program requires each student to present three reference letters, a resume and as passing score of 70% in the final examination.

Some trainees get jobs immediately following graduation. Others may have to wait up to three months for an opening to become available. After the training is over, program participants may be enrolled in a SCSEP program. In this program they can be placed in a host agency that provides health care. Their employability will be further enhanced by this practical work experience in home care.

In New York City, home attendants are unionized. Jobs start at $6.80/hour, but the hourly rate rises for evening and weekend work. People who work at least 80 hours per month qualify for health benefits which cover the worker's whole family.

Contact is maintained with the graduates of the program who are employed as home attendants. Employers are also contacted to ensure they are satisfied with the placement. Graduates often go back to the program office for post-placement counseling. These satisfied graduates and satisfied employers act as advertisements for the program throughout the local community.

All of the trainees in this program are 55 years old and older. The classes are kept small and are taught by mature instructors. To help maintain participants' motivation, class breaks include physical exercise in the morning and group singing in the afternoon. The singers perform at the ceremonies which are held for each graduating class. More than 80% of the older workers who go through this training for home attendants get jobs.


Job clubs work. In Akron, Ohio, the Senior Workers Action Program's Senior Employment Center provides job clubs that train low-income, older participants in practical, job search skills while providing a environment that is supportive to the members both during and after the job search. To complement the job search activities, the staff of the Senior Employment Center organizes an annual job fair that brings together employers and older job seekers from a wide geographic area. The agency also has established "Mature Staffing Systems," which markets older workers as highly desirable because of experience and work ethic. The Senior Employment Center also produces "Employment Connection" a weekly cable TV show that features job seekers and employers. The format includes guest appearances and on-location reporting. This comprehensive approach to helping mature job seekers results in a high placement rate for the programs's participants.

The Senior Employment Center's job clubs are unique in that they foster support groups that continue to meet even after group members have found jobs. Participants are co-enrolled in the SCSEP Senior AIDES Program which provides them work experience and training. When they are job-ready, they're enrolled in job clubs. Job club members make up a more diversified group than is usually found in public employment and training programs. Because northeastern Ohio is an area where many people were once employed in the manufacturing sector, many job club participants have had successful experience in technical jobs. These members have expertise and confidence that they share with other group members who may have had little or no experience.

Job club members participate in intense three-week, four-hour-a-day job seeking skills sessions followed by weekly sessions where they pool their leads and network on job opportunities. White collar and technical workers are often teamed with long-term unemployed and displaced homemakers. The salaries for the job club trainers are paid by JTPA 5% older worker set-aside funds. These funds support job clubs in Akron plus five job clubs in branch offices throughout northeastern Ohio. The Senior Employment Center hires mature trainers with good generalist skills who can train, recruit, market and empathize with older workers.

A "living curriculum" is used to teach job search skills.

Since each group is different, job search techniques are taught using a curriculum that is constantly changing to meet the needs of the trainees. Job club members are expected to be proactive in their job search. Emphasis is placed on techniques like "cold calling," which are difficult for most people to do on their own. The group here acts to shore up the self-confidence of its members through discussions of common problems and solutions. By sharing their successes and failures, job club members realize that their problems are not

Basic skills are covered in each group.

The job search curriculum is covered in a five section course of study which provides written materials for use by the group and requires the completion of homework assignments. The five sections include:

Section 1 Resources/Research

Filling out job applications

Negotiating salaries

Researching companies

Finding leads

Using temporary services

Getting references.

Section 2 Preparing Your Resume

Writing resumes

Writing cover letters

Succeeding at job fairs

Answering classified ads

Cold calling

Telephone interviewing.

Section 3. Managing Your Job Campaign

Finding jobs in small companies

Finding federal jobs


Writing follow-up letters

Taking tests.

Section 4 Interviewing Techniques

  • Setting up and preparing for interviews
  • Keeping the job you get.

    Section 5 Don't Take It Personally

    Reacting to rejection

    Recharging emotionally

    Relieving stress

    Learning to love your job

    The job club makes use of techniques that have worked for other organizations.

    S.W.A.P.'s annual job fair attracts employers and job seekers from a wide area.

    An employment agency provides further help.

    Participants are recruited from a variety of sources.

    The club makes use of techniques that have been successful for such support groups as Forty Plus, an employment and training organization for unemployed professionals. Like Forty Plus, Akron's' job club for low-income, unemployed workers makes use of internal networking, offering training in using computers, providing time and space for practicing techniques as they are being taught and providing an environment where the emphasis in on positive self-motivation and group support. The job club also links enrolles with other services which are available thorough area one-stop centers.

    Job club members also benefit from the Senior Workers' Action Program's annual job fair which in 1998 was attended by 85 employers and 1230 older job seekers. Older workers from the job clubs are fully prepared with their resumes ready and their interviewing techniques sharpened. Agency staff at the job fair are present to help the older workers fill out applications and answer questions from the employers and job seekers. This is a successful annual event that is well attended by both employers and older workers. Employers come to the fair knowing that the job applicants will be older workers. The job seekers come knowing that they will not be competing with younger workers and they will not have to face age discrimination.

    The Senior Employment Center has also established an employment agency for older workers that is the only service of its kind in this area. It has attracted national attention and has been featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal. Called "Mature Staffing Systems" this service is different from that supplied by commercial agencies. It is a self-supporting subsidiary of the nonprofit S.W.A.P., set up to help older people find work. In a time when federally-funded programs are limited, this approach is bringing in money needed to provide other older worker services.

    Recruitment methods are as diverse as the range of services. Applicants hear about the Senior Employment Center through the annual older workers' job fair, the Employment Connection, word-of-mouth, direct advertising, one-stops, the Web page (WWW.swap,org), media and flyers posted at libraries, shopping areas and other public venues.

    This program is another example of a comprehensive training program which uses public funds and services from JTPA's 5% Older Worker Set-Aside, SCSEP and one-stop centers to put low-income, older workers back to work.



    The low-income, older worker programs discussed here all combine funding from the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) and the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA). This merging of public funding has resulted in comprehensive training programs that are preparing hard-to-serve older workers for well-paying jobs in a technological society. The JTPA is repealed effective July 1, 2000. Its repeal brings about the end of the JTPA Five Percent Older Worker Set-Aside Program and leaves the SCSEP as the only program specifically providing training to low-income, older workers.

    The elimination of the older worker set-aside presents a challenge to those providing training services to low-income, older workers . The competition for a finite amount of funding under the new Workforce Investment Act (WIA) requires practitioners to be knowledgeable about the new legislation and to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the Act.

    To be successful, older worker advocates must be PROACTIVE and ASSERTIVE.


  • Become more visible in your community. Get to know the one-stop center board members and service providers. Try to be seated, or to place an ally of your services, on one-stop and WIA boards.
  • Coordinate services with the one-stop/WIB.
  • Negotiate Memoranda of Understanding with the one-stop and WIB.
  • Make contacts on the state level to gain membership on the new State Workforce Investment Board.
  • Make sure the state and local WIB plans incorporate older worker issues and needs in their strategic plans and performance goals.
  • Work to maintain successful training programs targeting low-income seniors by ensuring that the governor includes low-income, older workers in the definition of "special participant populations that face multiple barriers to employment."
  • Understand the exceptions to the "voucher rule," which requires that all training be made available through vouchers, except that contracts for services may be used in lieu of individual training accounts if consumers choose that training and if:
  • - such services are OJT training provided by an employer, or

    - customized training is provided, or

    - as determined by the local WIB, there are not enough eligible training service providers in the local area to accomplish the purpose of the system of individual training accounts, or

    - as determined by the WIB, there is a training services program of demonstrated effectiveness offered in the area by a community-based organization or another private organization to serve special participant populations that face multiple barriers to employment.

  • Become advocates to make sure that one-stops:
  • - Have staff trained in older worker issues.

    - Offer services compatible with the needs of low- income, older workers.

    - Have databases with information relevant to low- income, older workers.

    - Have recruitment plans which target older workers.

    - Have performance standards which demonstrate their response to older workers' needs.

    For additional information on the Workforce Investment Act and its implications for older worker practitioners:

    Older Worker Bulletins 98-32 and 98-35 which provide basic background information on the WIA.

    Older Worker Bulletin 98-37 which encourages older worker practitioners to become more involved with the new system and provides copies of the Urban Institute paper, "Implications and Opportunities in the Workforce Investment Act for the Senior Community Service Employment Program," and a , Inc. publication, "Implications of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) for Older Workers."

    The National Association of State Units on Aging's publication, "Assessing Workforce Development Systems: Benchmarks for Mature and Older Workers."

    This material is available from:

    The U.S. Department of Labor

    Employment and Training Administration

    Division of Older Worker Programs

    200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.

    Washington, D.C. 20210.


    Administration on Aging. Profile of Older Americans: 1997. Washington, DC, 1997.

    American Association of Retired Persons. Valuing Older Workers: A Study of Costs and Productivity. Washington, DC: AARP, 1995.

    American Association of Retired Persons. Business and Older Workers. Washington, DC: AARP, 1989.

    American Association of Retired Persons. Workers Over 50: Old Myths, New Realities. Washington, DC: AARP, 1985.

    Belbin, E.and Belbin, M. Problems in Adult Retraining. London: William Heineman Lts.,1972

    Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS Daily Reports. Washington, DC, June 18 and June 24 1998.

    Butler, R.N. Why Survive? Being Old in America. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1975.

    Filipczak, B. "Old Dogs, New Tricks," Training, May 1998.

    Fyock, C.D. America's Work Force Is Coming of Age. New York, NY: Lexington Books, 1990.

    Gross, D. Unique Training Requirements of Low-Income, Older Workers: A Resource Manual for SCSEP Practitioners. Silver Spring, MD: The National Senior Citizens Education & Research Center, Inc. for the U.S. Department of Labor, 1998.

    Gross, D. Using Motivation and Training to Increase Job Placements. Silver Spring, MD: The National Senior Citizens Education & Research Center, Inc. for the U.S. Department of Labor, 1997.

    Henig, R.M. The Myth of Senility. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company and AARP, Washington, DC, 1985.

    Imel, S. Myths and Realities - Older Workers. Columbus, OH: Center on Educational Training for Employment. Ohio State University, 1996.

    Lester, B. A Practitioner's Guide for Training Older Workers. Washington, DC: National Commission for Employment Policy, 1984.

    Manheimer, R.J. The Second Middle Age: Looking Differently at Life Beyond 50. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press, 1995.

    Moore, J. Developing Successful Adult Basic Education Programs for Older Adults. Asheboro, NC: Randolph Community College, n.d.

    National Association of State Units on Aging. Assessing Workforce Development Systems: Benchmarks for Mature and Older Workers. Washington, DC, 1998.

    Nightingale, D.S. Implications and Opportunities in the Workforce Investment Act for the Senior Community Service Employment Program. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute for the U.S. Department of Labor, 1998.

    Plett, P.C. and Lester, B.T. Training for Older People: A handbook. Geneva, Switzerland: International Labour Organization, 1991.

    Poulos, S. and Nightingale, D.S. The Aging Baby Boom: Implications for Employment and Training Programs. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, for the U.S. Department of Labor, 1997.

    Restak, R.M. Older & Wiser: How to Maintain Peak Mental Ability for As Long As You Live. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

    1. 1."Economically disadvantaged" is used as it is defined for JTPA purposes. Under JTPA, it is defined as receiving or in a family receiving cash welfare, receiving food stamps and/or in a family that has income in the prior six months that was below the official poverty level or below 70% of the DOL-established lower-living standard level.

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