Aging Workforce: Real Stories of Transformation and Resilience – A two-part series from our CEO

September 7, 2023

Part 2: Empowering Older Job Seekers through SCSEP

As we venture deeper into the heart of workforce narratives and the transformative power of programs designed to empower older job seekers, we invite you to join us on a journey that delves even further into the lives and stories that shape our understanding. Last week, we talked about the shifting landscape in New Bedford and the stories of Susan and Kenny through Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Building upon our previous exploration, we are excited to share more firsthand experiences from the field Bedford.


Stories of Triumph: Impact of SCSEP

Warren’s Path: Warren, at 65, exudes optimism and has a history of earning a solid living. He spent over 20 years as a unionized longshoreman and another decade working at a mental health hospital. While “retired,” he works evening security jobs and participates in SCSEP, where he works in food service at Coastline. Warren believes “SCSEP extended my working life. I’ll never stop working; I enjoy it.”

Earlene’s Experience: Earline highlights the challenges of isolation among older job seekers. She lives alone in a large senior housing complex, where she felt the corrosive impact of exclusively older neighbors. Work, for her, means interacting with younger people. She began SCSEP in community service at the New Bedford Area Agency on Aging before landing a position at the New Bedford Art Museum. Her contentment is restored. For Earlene, “Aging leads to isolation. SCSEP gave me a chance to live again.”

Carol’s Journey: At 75, Carol’s warmth contrasts her journey. She worked as a billing clerk and later at an ambulance company but downsizing and layoffs led to depression. Discovering SCSEP through a friend, she joined the Fishing Heritage Center as a sales rep. For Carol, “SCSEP pulled me out of my shell. Older folks are reliable, eager to work, and diligent.”

Elvia’s Tale: A remarkable woman in her late 60s, Eliva has experienced the ups and downs of a working life in America. An immigrant with fluency in 3 languages (English, Spanish and Portuguese), Eliva’s working life began on the assembly line in a local manufacturing plant. Her time on the assembly line lasted just 3 years. Elvia had decided her working life had greater purpose. For her, purpose came in the form of education. Eliva took advantage of her company’s education benefits and earned her college degree in the evening. With new credentials, her employer moved her into an administrative role where she worked for many years. Unfortunately, disappointment struck when she was laid off following corporate downsizing.

Elvia’s working life took another positive turn when she was hired in an administrative capacity by an employment and training agency. She enjoyed her role, however, after 10 yrs. of service, Elvia was laid off once again. With the disappointment of a second layoff, Eliva transitioned into retirement on the back of several short-term positions. Like many in this group, Elvia heard about the SCSEP program from a friend within the community. She signed up. As a SCSEP job seeker, she was initially placed within the organization administrating the program. However, her years of work experience combined with her wonderful administrative skills convinced Coastline to transition their SCSEP job seeker onto their permanent team as a full-time employee. Elvia opined, “SCSEP restored my hope. Now, I can offer others like me a chance to re-enter the workforce.”

Investing in Older Workers: SCSEP and Beyond

The SCSEP program’s story mirrors people like Elvia, offering a path back to employment. Amid multiple layoffs, these job seekers resiliently returned to work, albeit through challenging journeys.

Notably, few of these older job seekers possess company pensions. Social Security forms most of their primary income, supplemented by SCSEP.  Employment also serves various purposes—some find it enjoyable; others find value in work for relieving social isolation. Regardless, meaningful employment matters to every job seeker.

For New Bedford’s job seekers, SCSEP symbolizes hope and dignity amidst fear. Established in 1963 by President Lyndon Johnson, SCSEP caters to older job seekers, primarily women, under TITLE V of the Older Americans Act. It addresses a pressing economic concern: our increasingly age-dependent workforce. By 2024, Older Americans will be the largest segment, necessitating training for digitally demanding roles. The time for increased investment is now.

The fate of older residents in cities like New Bedford remains uncertain. With the Boston commuter rail expansion in 2025, the city’s affordable real estate may attract a more affluent population capable of remote work. These cities’ history and culture, enriched by the stories of job seekers, deserve recognition. They also offer a historical perspective and a test for envisioning our future.

Engaging with older job seekers in New Bedford through SCSEP reveals inspiring stories of Susan, Kenny, Elvia, and more. These narratives exemplify resilience and renewal, underscoring how the program helps individuals embrace change and emerge stronger. The monthly jobs report forms just one layer of understanding. The true narrative resides in the stories of individuals like those participating in SCSEP. These stories project a hopeful future, a workforce enriched by diverse experiences and a commitment to progress.

By Gary A. Officer
President & CEO, Center for Workforce Inclusion