SSAI Announces Awards Recipients to Kick off National Employ Older Workers Week

September 25, 2017

SILVER SPRING, Md., Sept. 25, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — As the number of younger workers in America is set to decrease within a few years, employers are looking to older workers to fill talent gaps in their workforce. Increasingly, they can. Workers 55 and over are projected to make up 25 percent of the civilian labor force by the year 2020, up nearly double from 13 percent in 2000. On top of that, people are now working longer and retiring later with the number of workers bypassing the traditional retirement age of 65 on the rise. Against this backdrop, and as part of “National Employ Older Workers Week,” SSAI honors three senior citizens who have transformed their employability with the “Learning Gets Better with Age Award.” They are Robert Chaney of Connecticut, Crystal Davis of Wisconsin, and Darlene Smith of Alabama.

“Older workers are not only a mature, skilled group of talent, but the generational diversity they bring strengthens the diversity of our workforce on the whole,” says Gary Officer, President and Executive Director of SSAI.

SSAI works through local partners delivering career training programs for 50-plus-year-old workers in 34 states. They are the second largest administrator of the Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) that provides on-the-job skills training to individuals 55 or older who have limited financial resources. Through its partnerships, SSAI has helped SCSEP get over 700,000 older Americans into the workforce, whether for the first time or to go back to work post-retirement. 

The three recipients of SSAI’s inaugural “Learning Gets Better with Age Award” serve to educate and inspire older American as well as employers.

Rick Chaney
U.S. Army veteran Rick Chaney was haunted by not having graduated high school. For over forty years, whenever he was asked on a job application if he had a high school diploma or GED, Chaney said he had. “No one ever asked to see my diploma, and I was constantly waiting for the ball to drop.” For him, the career training program and the two years it took him to earn his diploma from the National External Diploma Program, while training at his SCSEP community service assignment, were redemption for lost years of alcohol abuse and heroin addiction. With a clean slate at 59, he plans to pursue his passion. Art. “That’s where my peace lies,” he said in his commencement speech to his graduating class.     

Crystal Davis
Years of work on factory floors had taken its toll on Crystal Davis’ health. At 57, too young for retirement, and still in need of an income, she found herself facing a career change. Through SCSEP she registered for and passed the high school equivalency exam and went on to an office position paying more than her factory positions.

“I knew nothing about office work before. But once I started learning again, everything changed for me,” says Davis.

Darlene Smith
Joining the workforce was not a given for women when Darlene Smith left high school and got married in the late 1950’s. After raising six kids who were now grown, with families of their own, the stark reality was that she didn’t have the minor requirements posted in low-level job descriptions: either a high school diploma or equivalency. Smith enrolled in an SCSEP program at the Goodwill Easter Seals in Mobile Alabama, completing her GED at age 64. In July she marked her fifth anniversary at Walgreens where she works as a Front End Cashier.

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About Senior Service America, Inc.
Senior Service America, Inc. (SSAI) is committed to making it possible for low-income and other disadvantaged older adults to participate fully in determining their own future and the future of their communities. For 50 years, the organization has operated the federal Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) through a network of local subgrantee organizations. For more information, please visit