Older workers on the rise: Golden years don't always mean taking it easy

 

About Evergreen


More choose to rejoin work force after retirement

Jeff Moore jeffmoore@theadvertiser.com December 26, 2008

Jean S. Ducote, 74, of Lafayette, left, receives an award from Experience Works Regional Director Becky Scott recognizing her as the 2008 Outstanding Older Worker for Louisiana. Ducote is one of a growing number of retirees re-entering the work force. (Photos by Claudia B. Laws/claws@theadvertiser.com)

What began as a break from the routine of retired life has turned into a new career for 74-year-old Jean S. Ducote.

Ducote, an employee at Acadiana Computer Systems in Lafayette, was recently named Louisiana's Outstanding Older Worker by Experience Works, a leading provider of training and job services for older workers.

While many her age are enjoying their departure from the work force, working comes naturally to Ducote.  "I'm a person who's always worked," she said. "I don't think I can retire."

Statistics show Ducote is among a growing number of retirement-aged workers who are still in the work force.  Employment of workers 65 and over increased by 101 percent from 1977-2007, compared to a much smaller increase of 59 percent for total employment, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ducote got her first job in high school, pumping gas and handling charge accounts at a St. Landry Parish grocery store.  Marriage and family life took her out of the workforce until 1965, when she returned to the retail business.

Ducote spent more than 20 years working at the medical office of Dr. Don Hines, who served more than a decade as a state senator.  She retired in 2001, but quickly grew restless with the lifestyle.  "I went on a vacation, and when I came back, I was climbing the walls," she said.

Ducote found a job at Acadiana Computer Systems, where her daughter works as human resources director.  She commuted to work from Bunkie, working one or two days a week as a receptionist.  Ducote was soon promoted to accounts receivable representative, working with patients and insurance companies to collect medical bills.

Company CEO Don Dupuis was so impressed with Ducote's work that he recruited her to move to Lafayette.

"She's really a very easy-going person," Dupuis said. "She has to deal with people in a time of stress, and she handles it very well."  Ducote's co-workers have adopted her as the "grandmother" of the office, a title she cherishes.  Ducote said she hopes to continue working for many years to come.  "As long as my health holds up," she said. "Because I'm not a person to stay home."

More older workers are expected to join Ducote in the work force during the next decade as members of the baby-boom generation - those born between 1946 and 1964 -reach retirement age.  The effects of a recent market collapse on investment portfolios could also keep some older workers on the job.  Our field staffers are finding a lot of people who have retired in the last six months to a year are needing help to get back in the job market," said Stephanie Gauthier, spokeswoman for Experience Works.  Older workers possess several qualities that make them ideal job candidates, said Experience Works spokeswoman Sami Lemoine.

A recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed older workers are more loyal to their employers than their younger counterparts.  "They have a great work ethic," Lemoine said. "And they bring a lifetime of knowledge to the work force."

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