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Retirees reentering workforce amid economic challenges

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Posted at 4:23 PM, Jul 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-08 19:37:18-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Seven months ago, Curt Elliott and his wife realized they needed a change. Their dollars weren't going as far as they used to.

Elliott had been retired for years and with changes in the economy, he decided to return to work at 73 years old.

"We were worried about not having enough money for five dollar a gallon gas, so going back to work was a very easy decision to make," Elliott said.

It didn't take long for his new work to become a calling, he got promoted from a part-time position at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center to a full-time job a couple of months ago. The pride he feels in his job is evident in the smile that comes across his face when he talks about his promotion.

"Well you know what happens when you like your job, you like your boss, you get promoted," Elliott said, he has a certain excitement about this position. "It wasn't just because it was a few more hours and a few more dollars, it was trust and faith given back to me and oh, that'll build you," Elliott said.

He now helps others at the center by putting together resumes and mock interviews, it's something he really enjoys. Elliott, a former school teacher used to help students in career services as well.

"[It was] tremendous growth for me to come in and find a job like that return from retirement," Elliott said.

Elliott is part of a growing number of retirees and people of retirement age still working.

It's something Ivonne Garcia with the Senior Resource Development Agency in Pueblo has noticed first-hand.

At the start of the pandemic, Garcia said she received phone calls from people nearing retirement age wanting to retire early. Many of them are concerned about contracting COVID-19 in the workplace.

A couple of years later, the same clients are now calling again seeking out help to find employment to cover costs like rent and utilities.

"It’s really picked up this year, like the beginning of the year, January, February and they continue to increase,” Garcia said.

Garcia hears about challenges with things like medical costs as well, she said a common misconception is the cost of Medicare in retirement. The base pay is often around a few hundred dollars.

“We are absolutely getting those calls where they’re not able to pay for their healthcare costs, prescriptions,” Garcia said.

Among the thousands of retirees in southern Colorado, there's another challenge, retirees say they're running into age discrimination in the job application process.

"I've had bosses say, what's an old guy like you wanting to keep working for?" Elliott said.

It's not just comments though, Elliott as well as Traci Marques, Executive Director of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center say job descriptions can also knowingly or unknowingly exclude candidates from applying.

Marques believes employers should take a good look at some of their practices.

"It's a really great opportunity for employers to look at skills-based and competency-based hiring, not look at the job description that you've had for 20 years and you're dusting off the shelf to use over and over again," Marques said.

For Elliott, his experience has given him some perspective.

"Yes it happened to me, but I take that now as a pleasant challenge to educate them that this isn't about my age this is about whether I have the skills, aptitude, ability, passion," Elliott said.

Michael Alvino's retirement story is a little different. When he first retired in 2009, his retired friends gave him some advice.

"Six different friends of mine that had retired had all told me the same thing," Avlino said, "they said, "Mike give retirement 6 months before you do anything crazy or anything."

He admits, he didn't listen. A couple of months into retirement, he got a job as a caretaker. He'd pick up jobs he was interested in here and there and says about four years ago he retired for about the fourth time.

"It's definitely not what I had envisioned 20 years like what retirement would look like for me at this time in my life," Alvino said.

His vision of retirement was more time with grandkids, which he does get, Alvino also simply enjoys working, much like Elliott.

"I still need to be active," Alvino said.

To this day, Alvino still works. He mostly officiates basketball, softball, and baseball games. Although over the last few years, the need to work isn't so much a way to build community and keep him busy.

"Now that I am at the retirement age, I've learned what the two words "fixed income" really mean now," Alvino said, "in the past, it used to be money I would set aside to take trips with but now it's money to kind of get from day to day."

Elliott and Alvino aren't sure when exactly they'll stop working, but say for now they're continuing to enjoy their work during retirement.

If you or someone you know is of retirement age and is in need of resources with rising costs, there are several resources in southern Colorado. They're listed below.

RESOURCES FOR SENIORS

Silver Key Senior Services
Pikes Peak Workforce Center
Senior Resource Development Agency
Rocky Mountain SER Empowerment Center
Fountain Valley Senior Center
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