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My Turn: System has cracks that trip older workers

By A.J. Moore

I enjoyed the fact that reporter Karissa Minn brought to your pages the story of two folks who have beaten the odds (“Older workers can do that job,” Sept. 23).
I’m extremely happy for both Jackie Benfield and Charles Evans Jr. They have been fortunate enough to get help that thousands of us out here don’t.
Last year, you ran an editorial page column by Melissa Graham titled “What about those falling between cracks?” I’ve read and reread that numerous times, and how true it is. Many of us seniors have gone to ESC, gone to JobLink, gone to RCCC for help and still have no remote chance of employment. As a veteran, I’ve gone further than that and gone to job fairs for military in Charlotte, Greensboro and Salisbury. Those were, to say the least, a travesty and “for show” only. Unless you want to be a night watchman, truck driver or trash collector, don’t bother showing up. If you’re a former financial officer, telecommunications specialist, electronics technician or skilled machinist, forget it. They won’t even take your resume. And, even in Ms. Minn’s article, Marie Sofley states she is “flooded with calls” and can only handle so many due to a quota.
Well, the point to that paragraph is, seniors are stuck in their “own” cracks in the system. And, if the article proved nothing else, it proved that we can roll up our sleeves and get it done. For example, I was an enumerator for the 2010 Census, working with folks much older than me and much younger. We got it done as a team, and I believe we did a good job. Businesses can be run in the same manner. I’m 63, but we had folks 75 and older knocking on doors in heat and facing other adversity without hesitation.
The article alludes to the fact that we’re skilled but deemed “too old.” And I hope I don’t step on too many toes here, but employers need to focus on what we “don’t” bring to the interview table just as much as what we “do.”
We bring hours and years of training and experience in relationships with other works. Many of us were white collar and many of us were blue collar craftsmen, but we all interacted with thousands of people over our careers.
But, to the point, what we don’t bring to the table is for the employer to be concerned with the overhead of hiring us. Meaning, we can’t earn but so much and still draw Social Security. We don’t necessarily require full or even partial medical/dental, since many of us have Medicare. And, in a vets case, we may have VA benefits, with a great hospital. We don’t bring little mouths to feed with us. We’ve all raised kids, so covering them with health benefits doesn’t enter the equation. And, if junior stubs his toe, we don’t have to leave work to take care of him. Most of us are healthy, much more so than people want to admit. So hard work should not be a factor, and working long hours or “off hours” is what we’ve done all our lives.
Nobody wants to be pointed to as “living on entitlements” and leeching off the taxpayer. But when the doors are shut in your face, you have no other choice …

A.J. Moore lives in Rowan County.

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“My Turn” columns should be between 500 and 700 words. E-mail submissions are preferred. Send to cverner@salisburypost. com with “My Turn” in the subject line. Include name, address, phone number and a digital photo of yourself if possible.

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