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Mature adults in the work place theme of Aging Together ‘conversation’

For the eighth year last week, Aging Together of Culpeper brought together community leaders for a time of presentation and discussion.

Moderated by Chris Miller, director of Aging Together, the annual forum hosted Jim Charapich, president and CEO of the Culpeper County Chamber of Commerce, Susan Keller, director of the Culpeper County Library, Kimberly Steward, education liaison from Culpeper Regional Hospital and Ruth Fugee from Germanna Community College.

Each year Aging Together invites community members to participate in the conversation built around a specific theme. This year's topic was: Let's Talk About … Workforce.”

“There has been, and continues to be, a dramatic growth in the older population,” Miller said in a telephone interview. “We wanted to bring together a diverse group of facilitators to share with the community how that effects their area of expertise.

“We chose workforce as the theme this year, because a lot of older adults are still in the workforce and wonder how to relate to younger adults they work with, are retiring or are ready to embark on second careers.”

Aging Together held similar conversations in all five counties served by the organization ― Culpeper, Orange, Madison, Rappahannock and Fauquier. The regional partnership consists of more than 100 agencies and individuals, according to the organizations website, www.agingtogether.org.

Nursing a second career choice

“One of the things we found in all five counties was that a lot of people in their 40s or 50s are choosing nursing as a second career,” said Miller.

“We try not to rehash information people already know, but rather brainstorm with (attendees) about steps we can take to help right here in Culpeper County.”

Miller said some of the concerns that seemed to be universal for older adults were: the need for better lighting in retail establishments, the need for better access both into buildings and through aisles and a desire to receive better customer service.

“Really, what is good for older adults is also good for others,” Miller said. “I talked to one lady who went to buy a new window air conditioner. The store said they could deliver the unit, but when she asked if they would put it in the window, they said 'no.'

“The lady ended up going to another store where the air conditioners were a bit more expensive, but they were willing to install them.”

Miller said that while older workers may lack some technology skills, they bring dependability, loyalty, experience and the desire to give good customer service to the workplace.

“There were about 45 or 50 folks there,” said Charapich in a telephone interview. “There were both community leaders and folks who came just to listen and make comments.”

Boomer consumers

Charapich led a discussion on the older adult as a consumer. He said his information came from personal research and experience as well as from the book “Boomer Consumer,” written by Matt Thornhill and john Martin. Thornhill was the luncheon speaker at a “Business Bootcamp” day of seminars hosted by the chamber.

“The term that is being used more now is 'mature adults,' Charapich said of the way to address older workers. “I told a story about a spinning class I lead. I put a map on the wall and said the class would follow the route of the Tour de France, which runs from July 1 to 22. After the class a lady pointed out that I had the map upside down. I wasn't wearing my glasses. A lot of us, as we get older, are still clinging to our youth.”

Charapich said he noted the need for “mature adult friendly” conferences, meetings and work sites.

“Is the event or meeting something everyone can attend?,” Charapich said, “Do the doors open easily? Many mature adults can't stand for a long time so is there adequate seating? Is there good customer service? Are there adequate checkers to move lines quickly?'

Keller talked about the older worker as relevant employees.

Benefits of hiring mature workers

“We received some great suggestions about how mature adults need to be viewed for what they have to offer the community,”Keller sai in a telephone interview. “Older workers looking for jobs should remember that employers can't read minds. The mature worker needs to explain their reason for looking for work – that they are bored or need to get out of the house more or want an extra income.

“Living so close to D.C. there are a lot of workers here with advanced degrees – they have a doctorate in whatever – they have already done that and now just want to be with people.”

Keller said she believes the community conversations are valuable on multiple levels.

“They bring seniors together as a recognizable and valuable part of our community,” she said. “This is a growing group and it's easy for us to go on our merry little way and forget important parts of the community. These conversations provide resources and answers to questions. One suggestion was to establish a volunteer pool to help seniors age in place (stay in their own homes as they age).”

Keller stressed that the library has training resources for those seniors who are lacking computer skills.

“Some employers now post all of their information – including job applications – online and senior adults need to know how to get at that information,” she said.

Stewart and Fugee facilitated the health care and workforce topic.

“I feel the event was a success ,” Stewart wrote in an email. “The audience was engaged and there was much discussion and Q & A with each topic.

“What struck me the most was the seniors voicing concerns that their contributions – their abilities and skills – are often overlooked. They are a big part of the workforce since age 50 is now considered an 'older' adult!”

Steward said she focused on education and training resources available for health care careers.

“Older adults are going back to school,” she said. “There are entry level careers at CRH for those who may be seeking new career options.”

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