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A Resource Guide for SCSEP Practitioners


















It is not easy for older workers to find employment. Older American workers have been faced with such blatant age discrimination that special legislation, "Age Discrimination in Employment," was enacted to counteract it. We know that older workers take longer to find jobs than younger workers and that they usually have to accept lower pay when they do find a job. We also know that they tend to get discouraged and stop looking for work much sooner than younger adults. Many older workers find that their skills are obsolete or non-transferrable. Older workers on the lower end of the economic scale have additional problems that have to do with the burden of financial problems and with the lack of self-confidence that comes with not being financially successful in our society.

Older Workers Require Training Geared to Their Specific Needs.

There are only two federally-sponsored workforce development programs specifically for low-income older workers, the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) and the 5% set-aside in the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA). Dual enrollment in these programs offers workforce development entities the opportunity to coordinate activities in a way that is beneficial to all concerned. Written agreements between program, allow those eligible for SCSEP services to be automatically eligible for JTPA services.

The JTPA set-aside recognizes that older workers have special, age-related needs. Unfortunately, the legislation governing federal training programs is expected to be changed in the near future, leaving the SCSEP as the only federal program that specifically addresses the training needs of older workers. The SCSEP, as currently funded, can service less than one percent of the mature Americans who meet its eligibility standards. And when the baby boom generation begins to reach 55 in 2005, far fewer than one percent will be served if the funding levels do not change.

The older, low-income people who enroll in the SCSEP have different attributes and a different set of needs from younger adults and from more affluent, older adults. Some older people take part in the JTPA IIA training that is open to all adults, but only a small percentage of those eligible do so. This is partly because such training programs do not target older people or because they fear failure or competition with younger individuals (Plett and Lester 1991). Generally, older, low-income adults do better when they are not lumped with the younger population in training situations.

At present there is a lack of sympathy for targeting special groups in public programs. This would be justifiable on an even playing field, but today the field is not even. The ever-growing emphasis on performance standards pushes public training programs toward directing their attention to those most likely to be hired and younger trainees are more likely to be hired faster and in better paying jobs than the older SCSEP trainees.

SCSEP Enrollees Need Training to Qualify for Unsubsidized Jobs.

Many of the 55 and older, low-income applicants to the Senior Community Service Employment Program are discouraged workers who have given up hope of finding a job in the private sector. Others, for various reasons, have been out of the job market for years. These are people who need to work to supply their basic needs. What can they do to change their situations? For some it may be a matter of changing their attitudes and the way they present themselves to employers. In most cases, however, what they need is training. This training could start with techniques to rebuild self-confidence and could include learning new or updated skills pertinent to the local job market with the interviewing and other techniques that will prepare them for a successful job search.

There is a high correlation between training and employment. Training is now of prime importance, particularly since so many job openings require technical skills that were not used or taught to those whose training and education preceded the age of computers. A training approach that ignores the special learning requirements of older people is not good enough if our goal is to help older Americans be self-supporting.

Jobs that pay more than the minimum wage require training. For the training to be successful, it must be designed around the needs of the people to be trained. The older workers among us who want and need to work should have access to the types of training that will help them compete and be successful in a technological society.

This Is a Problem That Is Not Going Away.

People 55 years old and older are constituting an increasingly large proportion of the population, increasing much more rapidly than any other age group. The 52 million in this category in 1995 is projected to rise to 62 million in 2005. The economically disadvantaged population will also age over the next decade. In 2005 there will be an increase of about 1.2 million disadvantaged adults over age 55. (Poulos and Nightingale 1997).

Today one out of five elderly Americans is in poverty status or near it. Without attention to the special problems of the ever-growing numbers of older workers we will be increasing that number.

What to Expect in This Guide

The following eight sections and two appendices are intended to provide a concise review of the special characteristics and training needs of low-income older participants in the Senior Community Service Employment Program.

1.0 Characteristics of the 55+, Low-Income SCSEP Population

2.0 How Age and Income Level Affect Training Needs

3.0 Training Implications

4.0 Logistics for Training Older Workers

5.0 The Trainer and the Training Process

6.0 Flexibility and Older, Low-Income workers

7.0 A Step-by-Step Process to Train an Older Worker for a SCSEP Community Service Work Assignment

8.0 An Example of a Successful Older Worker Training Program

The appendices were developed from SCSEP practitioners' responses to the following questions posed at an annual National Senior Citizens Education & Research Center (SSAI) training conference:

1. How do you think working with SCSEP enrollees differs from working with younger adult populations?

2. What techniques have you found most useful in working with SCSEP enrollees?

Appendix A, Attributes of SCSEP Older Workers Compared to Younger Adult Workers, presents the information collected in response to the first question. Appendix B, Techniques SCSEP Practitioners Have Found Successful in Working With Older Workers, presents the responses to question two.


The participants in the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) provide a snapshot of the U.S. low-income, older worker population. All SCSEP enrollees are 55 years old or older with incomes that are not more than 125% of the federal poverty level. Priority is given to eligible program applicants with the greatest economic need - those with incomes at or below the federal poverty line and those who are 60 years old and older. With all enrollment priorities, preference is given to applicants with poor employment prospects (those without a substantial employment history, basic skills and English language proficiency; displaced homemakers, school dropouts, disabled veterans and the homeless).

Who Are the SCSEP Older Workers?

The older workers who enter the SCSEP come from all walks of life. Many are widowed, divorced or single women who have spent their lives as homemakers and now find it necessary to make money to supply their food, shelter and clothing needs. Others may be men who were laid off from downsizing industries who find themselves with obsolete skills and the need to reinvent themselves. A number of enrollees are discouraged workers who have been unemployed for so long they had given up the search for employment. In certain parts of the country there are large numbers of enrollees who lack basic skills and are not English-speaking.

SCSEP enrollees may have graduate degrees, but be down on their luck as a result of illness or other traumatic experiences, or they may be men and women with little or no education who have been living on the fringe for most or all of their adult lives. This is a program where the only adjectives that are descriptive of all enrollees are "older" and "poor or near poor."


Being older and poor makes it twice as hard for older workers to find good jobs at decent wages. People in this country have accepted myths about the abilities of older workers which are not true.

Common stereotypes portray older workers as:

  • Harder to train
  • Less able to keep up with technological change
  • Less promotable
  • Less motivated

Myths about older workers are pervasive - not only among potential employers - but unfortunately they are also accepted as true by many older workers themselves. Older workers on all socioeconomic levels have more difficulty finding jobs than younger workers. Older workers who are also at or near the poverty level have the additional baggage of damaged self-confidence from many years of not achieving the financial success so valued in our society. These dual barriers of age and low income cannot be ignored when planning training for low-income, older workers.

How Age Affects Training

There is a measurable correlation between age and training needs. Instructional methods differ in kindergarten, elementary school, junior high and high schools to relate to the developmental stages of children and teenagers. Colleges and universities use different teaching methods from high schools. Adult education and vocational courses use techniques specific to their students' requirements. Training programs need to consider the physical, mental and social needs of the recipients of their training. These needs change as people age.

Functions such as vision, hearing, reaction time and memory have a strong dependence on the body and its level of functioning and are likely to change with age. With aging, the prevalence of arthritis increases and the connective tissue in joints stiffens which may affect the ability to move. At low to moderate levels of physical work, however, age does not affect the ability to perform work, but does result in a somewhat longer time to recover from work (Manheimer, 1995).

The mature brain is neither better or worse than the brain in earlier years of development. It is just different (Restak 1997). Aging is generally a time of slowing, not only of gait and motor performance and metabolic processes, but also of certain intellectual and recall functions (Henig 1985). The ability to store information does not seem to be affected by aging. It is the retrieval process that slows down. It is generally agreed that all age levels can learn. Older persons can usually learn anything younger people can, but they need to be given more time. Extra time is needed both to learn the information or skill and to demonstrate that the learning has occurred (Manheimer 1995).

Abilities that require quick thinking, such as timed matching tests, decline steadily after about age forty. This is no doubt a result of the changes in response speed that are age-related (Manheimer 1995).

Some gerontologists today are issuing optimistic reports about the life of the mind. Among their findings:

Most old people remain throughout life as intelligent as they ever were.

When intelligence scores do decline with age, speed of performance is usually the cause.

On self-paced tests, even those involving the incorporation of new types of abstract information, older people perform better than they do on timed tests.

Scores on intelligence tests decline less over time for people with a higher educational level and higher initial scores than for less educated or less intelligent peers, either because the education itself provides some protective effect or because it is associated with a lifestyle in which the mind is better used.

Many people seem to become more forgetful with age, but this may be due primarily to a slowdown in the retrieval of information, rather than to a total obliteration of the memory trace.

If taught to store new information more efficiently, the ability to retrieve it improves significantly (Henig 1985).

The physical and mental changes that do occur can be compensated for by effective training designs. Training programs need to be responsive to the changes in the body and mind that are normal and natural to the aging process.

Income Levels Affect Training

Income determines social class. Social class in turn affects aging by influencing the attitudes, beliefs and values people use to make life course choices and by limiting opportunities, particularly in terms of education and jobs. Higher income usually brings greater resources - knowledge, better health, greater retirement income. Many of the problem aspects of aging are concentrated among the working class and the poor. Age disqualification happens mainly to those who are already relatively disadvantaged, not to the rich and powerful or those people with exceptional skills. It has been said, for example, that people like Picasso never had a day's worry about age discrimination.

The older, low-income men and women in the SCSEP need practical training that recognizes the special needs of mature adults based on income-related conditions. Training needs to deal with the fact that many of the participants are people who have no recent or pertinent work experience or have unsuccessful or intermittent employment histories. People without a background of occupational competence and success have significant self- esteem and self-confidence problems that must be dealt with if training is to work.

Older, low-income SCSEP enrollees need special training to help them to:

Uncover the positive aspects of their backgrounds and how these aspects can be valuable to employers.

Determine the kind of work they want to do and the nature of the training that will help them get this work.

Examine what they perceive as barriers to obtaining their employment and training goals and what is needed to overcome these barriers.

Become skilled in the new workplace technologies.

The Individual Development Plan (IDP) will obviously be extremely helpful here in the identification process. The time spent with enrollees developing IDPs is invaluable in determining training needs and in their personal barriers to seeking training and employment. The IDP process will also help uncover any needs for social services. Urgent needs for such things as food and housing must be met before addressing training possibilities.

People with histories of economic failure need individual and/or group sessions to work on their self-esteem issues. These sessions could include: role playing and rehearsal, assertiveness training, videotaping of interviews, modeling of effective behavior by program staff, offering consistent encouragement, teaching realistic self-evaluation methods and providing information on how to deal with depression and anger (Plett/Lester 1991).

SCSEP participants are expected to use the program to get experience and training so that they can transition to an unsubsidized job. They require the kind of practical, skills training that will help them compete in an age-conscious job market, but they first need to be convinced that they are capable and worthy to compete.

Trainers of low-income older workers must also recognize that although SCSEP participants may have suffered some significant setbacks in their lives, they bring to the training lifetimes of experiences and, usually, highly developed survival techniques. Older workers need to be taken seriously and treated with respect.

Special Training Needs of Low-Income Older Women

More than 72% of SCSEP enrollees are women - the great majority without work histories or with intermittent work histories. These are women who may have taken time off to raise children, care for aging parents or both. Many may still be giving time and support to grandchildren, children and parents.

Women in their sixties today were born in the thirties and grew up in the turbulent years of the depression and World War II. This generation was unlikely to go to college or to pursue professional careers. They were expected to be homemakers and mothers while their husbands went into the work place and "brought home the bacon." The poorest women in the society worked in other people's homes, on farms or in factories in jobs that provided little or no training and no pensions or potential for savings.

Why do more older women need to work? The Administration on Aging's "Profile of Older Americans: 1997" reports the median income of older persons in 1995 was $16,684 for males and $9,626 for females. Older women's poverty rates have consistently been higher than those of older men. Retirement incomes for older women are only 55% as high as for men. For nearly one-third of divorced or widowed elderly women, Social Security represents 90% of their income, and many older women have little or no social security income. The major sources of income reported by older persons are Social Security, income from property (assets), public and private pensions, earnings and public assistance, in that order. This income is mostly the result of how much you earned and saved as a worker. Usually the more money you earn in your working years, the more affluent your elder years are.

Older women workers need to develop basic, occupational and job search skills. Those women who did work outside the home were often in low-paying jobs in the service sector which require few skills and offer few opportunities for training. Also, many women worked in part-time jobs which did not offer training opportunities.

Many of these women have had few educational opportunities and may require training in basic language and math education as well as in occupational and job search skills.

Training Should Help Women Realize Their Strengths. Today's older women who have never worked outside the home or who have spent most of their lives as homemakers tend to down play the skills that have helped them survive the economic and personal crises in their lives. These women are survivors and they have many practical skills which they may discount as unimportant. They have gained management and interpersonal skills through raising children, managing homes and volunteering in their communities. Effective training will help women recognize and build on their functional, transferrable skills.

The women who enroll in the SCSEP have taken a step toward helping themselves become financially independent. They need to believe that they can learn skills that will make it possible to leave the publicly-funded program and get a good job in the private sector. Older, low-income women with limited or no work histories need intensive training in skills that are marketable in their local communities. Thousands of women in the SCSEP today are being trained to use computers and other advanced equipment. This training is ensuring that they can compete for the jobs that will enhance their present and future incomes.


SCSEP practitioners have pointed out distinct differences in working with younger and older adult workers (see Appendix A). Some of the differences are generational. There have been dramatic changes in attitudes and customs between people born in the 1920s and thirties and later generations. The great depression left an indelible impression on these older workers. Cultural biases against women working outside of the home, the lack of emphasis on the importance of education, the dominance of the manufacturing sector which characterized the society of today's older workers are long gone. Today's older workers have lived through a series of wars and societal changes that younger people have never experienced and those who have not been economically successful have had years of frustration and failure that must be addressed.

Older, Low-Income Workers Have Generational and Social Attributes That Influence the Effectiveness of Training.

Many differences in working with older adults simply have to do with the changes that take place in the aging process. Why, for instance, would most older people want long-term training? Younger adults can look forward to decades of employment, while older workers' time is limited. Older, low-income workers have expenses and commitments that need immediate addressing. Most are interested in training that will put them in jobs quickly.

In general, however, older persons need more time in the learning process than younger adults. Older adults can take up to two times as long to learn a new task or skill. In "America's Work Force Is Coming of Age," Catherine Fyock states that like the general population, not all adults learn at the same rates of speed. For many older adults it may take up to two times as long to learn new information because of the way the brain changes as aging occurs. This training investment is easily recouped when the longer length of service of most older workers in a single job is considered. In addition, once older workers have learned new tasks they tend to perform them with fewer mistakes than younger workers.

As would be expected, SCSEP practitioners have noted major differences in attributes that had to do with self-confidence. Some older low-income workers have had many years of failure or just plain bad luck that has worn away their self-esteem. Others, primarily women, never before had to compete in the marketplace and they are insecure and lacking in self- confidence.

Under-educated older adults may have some or all of the following characteristics:

Lack of confidence

Lack of basic skills

Fear of school (because of past failures)

Inadequate economic resources

Varied academic aptitudes

Different values, goals, attitudes

Lack of experience in goal setting

Feelings of helplessness (Moore n.d.)

Effective training must recognize that techniques to build self-esteem and self-confidence must be an integral part of any job skills or job search training activity.

Today's Employers Want Flexible Employees

Today, businesses need to be more and more competitive. There is more downsizing, an increased use of technology and greater use of team work structures. Employers are looking for workers who can respond to the rapid changes in today's workplace.

Probably the most dramatic difference between younger and older workers is in the way they view work. Older workers tend to have steady work habits, are responsible, reliable and satisfied, require less supervision once a task is mastered and demonstrate minimal turnover, tardiness and absenteeism. This so-called "old fashioned" work ethic is no longer the norm in the work place. Younger adults do not believe that loyalty, punctuality and commitment are all that important. It is also true that these traits are less highly valued by employers. In a technological society employers are more interested in creativity, technical expertise and flexibility than in loyalty and commitment (AARP 1995, 1989, 1985).

Some Employers Value Receptivity to Change Over "Old- Fashioned" Work Ethics

A recent American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) study, "Valuing Older Workers, A Study of Costs and Productivity," (AARP 1995) reports on 12 case studies of companies spanning a diversity of sizes, industries and geographical locations. Managers in these companies present their impressions of older employees performances in regard to specific skills and traits. These managers rated older workers highly on:



Commitment to quality



They rated older employees weaker on:


Acceptance of new technology

Ability to learn new skills

Physical ability to perform strenuous jobs

The performance traits cited by managers as most desirable for today's changing workplace and those critical to the company's success in the future are those not always attributed to today's older workers. These traits are:


Receptivity to change

Acceptance of new technology

Willingness to seize opportunities to demonstrate initiative

and exercise independent judgement.

Two earlier AARP studies, "Workers Over 50: Old Myths, New Realities," (AARP 1985) and "Business and Older Workers similarly reported that employers perceived older workers very positively for their experience, knowledge, work habits and attitudes. Their negative perceptions of older workers centered around questions about older workers' flexibility, adaptability to technology and aggressive spirit. AARP's more recent study seems to confirm these findings.

The responses of the group of SCSEP practitioners reported in Appendix A also seem to confirm the findings in the AARP studies. These practitioners have reported many attributes of SCSEP enrollees that indicate low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. Problems in these two personality areas would, of course, have profound effects on workers flexibility and receptivity to change.

Training programs need to be ready to help to develop behaviors that are valued in America's competitive, technological society. With proper training (see Sections 4.0 - 8.0), older people can learn to be more flexible and comfortable with new technologies. Fostering these traits should be an essential element of any training for older workers. The SCSEP, which provides older workers with an opportunity for gaining work experience and training in areas of their choice without the fear of being fired or laid off, is an example of a program which can help foster the self-esteem and self- confidence which promotes flexibility in workers.

Conventional Traits Are Still Valued By Employers

There still are, and there will continue to be, many jobs where conventional traits of older workers are highly valued. Unfortunately, many of these jobs are in industries that pay low wages, provide little or no benefits and offer few chances for advancement.

Any effective training program must acknowledge both the positive and negative attributes of its customers and design the instruction around these attributes, around the employment needs and goals of its customers and around the local job market.



People's senses tend to dim with age. Training environments must provide for the changes in eyesight and hearing that affect older people. No training can take place if trainees can not see the visuals that will be used and cannot hear the trainer.

Physical factors have to be considered when designing the training setting in terms of lighting, noise, temperature, seating arrangements and number and length of rest periods. Adequate lighting and good acoustics are particularly important when training older people.

Vision Changes Require Attention

Increasing age decreases the ability of the eye to change shape and focus on very near objects. Older people need more light than younger people, making night driving more difficult. The lens of older people's eyes yellows and filters out violet, blue and green colors (Manheimer 1995)

Visual aids should have large, easy-to-read print with a high contrast, not with a glossy finish, particularly laminated pages or posters. Avoid posting training material above eye level. Many older people wear bifocals and have difficulty looking up to read training materials. Do not use low contrast colors like blues, greens or pastels; they're hard to see (Fyock 1990).

Most Older People Have Some Hearing Loss

Age-related changes in the ability to discriminate among sounds make speech more difficult to hear, especially when people talk fast, when there is background noise or when there is distortion or reverberation. Twenty-five percent of women and thirty percent of men have difficulty hearing faint speech and five percent can't hear amplified speech (Manheimer 1995). The trainer needs to check at the beginning of a session to be sure everyone can hear. If the room is very large, or if the acoustics are not good, the trainer should use a microphone.

Older Workers Prefer Less Formal Seating Arrangements

Seating arrangements may vary with the types of training. In most cases older workers prefer sitting in groups around a table. This provides a place to put the books, papers or other training materials plus a writing surface. The group arrangement also promotes socialization among trainees and provides a more supportive learning atmosphere than conventional classroom seating by rows.

Training Proceeds Better in Comfortable Classroom Environments

In some classrooms the temperature control mechanism may cause the room to be too hot or too cold. The trainer needs to be especially alert to how this can affect the learning process. Many older people have arthritis which tends to increase sensitivity to cold temperatures. In cases where there is no way of adjusting the temperature, trainers may discuss the problem with the class and have them, where possible, adjust their clothing.

Shorter Sessions Are More Effective

Sitting for long periods in classrooms is uncomfortable for people of all ages, but it is particularly uncomfortable to older persons. Training sessions should provide frequent breaks for using the rest rooms or just moving around the room. Trainers should prepare their presentations in shorter modules and provide a variety of learning activities. It is too much to expect a group of older people to maintain their interest, for example, during an hour and one-half uninterrupted lecture.

The Training Class is Best When Kept Small

If possible, keep the training group size small. The smaller the class size, the more individual attention the trainer can provide. This is important, especially when teaching technical skills.


An average sixty-year-old's eye admits only one-third as much light as the eye of a twenty-year-old. Greater levels of illumination are required by older people.

With age, the lens of the eye gradually yellows affecting the perception of colors. It is much easier for older people to see yellow, orange and red than darker colors. (Manheimer 1995)

When both words and pictures are used, older persons can retain six times more information than with just words (Lester 1984).


Trainers for older worker training sessions need to be aware of the attributes and needs of SCSEP enrollees. When possible, older trainers should be used to teach older workers. Many times older trainers are more knowledgeable about learning differences and can structure the learning environment to the older workers' needs. They make excellent role models for the trainees, and older workers have reported that they feel more comfortable when the instructor is an older adult.


Understand the physical, mental and social needs of low-income, older workers.

Use techniques to improve worker's confidence and self-esteem.

Are enthusiastic.

Treat participants with respect.


Draw on the practical experiences of participants.

Provide structured and definable experiences.

Make learning an active process.

Keep the training process simple.

Repeat instructions

Speak clearly and distinctly.

Speak slowly.

Eliminate jargon and acronyms -- at least at first.

Acknowledge growth and learning of participants.

  • Link learning with rewards that recognize achievements such as award luncheons, recognition articles in newsletters, etc. (For examples of non-monetary rewards for SCSEP enrollees see "Using Motivation and Training to Increase Job Placements." (Gross 1997)


    The training process should focus on the gains of aging - not the losses. Older workers are rich in experience. They have had lifetimes in problem solving. Older workers do not lose their learning capabilities, adaptability and inclination to high productivity. If they were not serious about wanting to improve the quality of their lives, they would not have enrolled in the SCSEP. Unlike school children, they are in a learning situation because they choose to be.

    Older Workers Learn What They Think They Need to Learn

    Training should provide practical experience that will lead to unsubsidized employment or the alleviation of barriers that affect employment. The more clear the relationship of the training to actual jobs in the community, the more effective the training. Trainers need to be familiar with the local job market and provide trainees with job availability information. The training needs to be practical, not theoretical, and trainees must understand why they are learning and how the information can be applied. It is important to advise people entering training what they are to learn and what their performance requirements will be. Training must be designed to teach specific skills at an identified performance level.

    Trainees Need Help with Self-Confidence\Self-Esteem Issues

    The trainer needs to help trainees live with their doubts and fears while developing the skills necessary to perform at a personally satisfying and socially successful level.

    Group or individual activities that can be used to build up confidence include role playing and rehearsal, assertiveness training, self evaluations, and using videos for practice interviews. The techniques in Appendix B that were developed by SCSEP practitioners have proven successful in working with older workers.

    When older workers are directed in methods to inventory their present skills and relate them to jobs, they usually find that they have much more to offer employers than they thought. Many older workers have never taken the time to really look at all of the things they have done in their lives that are useful in the job market.

    Older Trainees Value Non-Verbal Training More than Verbal Training

    Older trainees have been found to learn through activating the senses. Basically, 75 percent of this learning is through the sense of sight, 13 percent through the sense of hearing, six percent through the sense of touch, three percent through the sense of smell and three percent through the sense of taste (Lester 1984). Classrooms should be set up, as discussed in Section 4.0, to compensate for the sensory changes that are normal for older people.

    Adults Learn By Doing

    Nerves from the eye to the brain are 25% denser than those from the ears. For that reason and probably because of television and movies, most people are visual rather than auditory learners. Andrea Nevins, director of the National Eldercare Institute on Human Resources, presented the following information on adult learning at a meeting of the American Society on Aging:

    Method Average Rate of Retention

    Lecture 5%

    Reading 10%

    Audio Visual 20%

    Demonstrations 30%

    Discussions 50%

    Practice Doing (Experiential) 75%

    The Teaching Process Should Be Slowed Down

    Studies have shown that when things move too quickly, people's performance and, just as important, their motivation drops steeply. All people learn at different rates. The training process should be kept slow and simple. All instructions should be repeated and learners should repeat their actions.

    Nothing is more frustrating to trainees who already feel a lack of confidence in their abilities than not being able to keep up with a fast-paced instructor.

    Some trainers may find it easier to do things for the slower-paced trainees. In computer training, for example, some trainers are tempted to press keys for the trainees to speed up the process. This is a bad idea. Trainers need to be patient and allow trainees to do things for themselves at their own pace, no matter how slow.

    Keep the training process slow and simple.

    Self-Paced Learning Allows Trainees to Set Their Own Pace

    Mature adults, like all people, are different and learn at different rates. Self-paced learning has been very effective for those who are less confident in their ability to compete with classmates.

    It is an especially effective technique when training people to use computers. Computer-based training (CBT), for example, gives the users more control over the speed with which the material comes at them. It doesn't overload the users' senses (Filipczak, B.).

    The Training Should Supply Ample Opportunities for Practice

    Trainees need to practice what they are learning while they are learning. Creative trainers find ways to help trainees gain confidence in the skills they are learning. Techniques such as role play, question and answer games, class discussions and skill testing are often used to reinforce the learning process. The testing process should be used sparingly. Many older adults fear tests and do not perform well on them. Adults with low self-esteem need positive feedback and testing is usually not a very effective way of practicing what they have learned. Wherever possible trainees should have access to the types of machines and equipment they will be using in the jobs for which they are being trained. People learning to use computers need to spend many hours at the keyboard. Training will be useless unless the trainee has access to a computer in out-of-class time. Trainers can direct trainees to libraries and other places where computers are available for practice.

    Relating Training to Skills Older Workers May Already Possess Increases the Effectiveness of Training

    Where possible, it is best to relate training to what the trainee already knows. Training programs for women with limited or no employment histories, for instance, may build on experiences they had as mothers and homemakers. Many women discount these skills and must be convinced of their value. The training program discussed in Section 7.0 is an example of a successful program which expands what the trainees already know to new skills. A word processing class can build on the trainee's previous knowledge of the typewriter keyboard. All SCSEP enrollees bring knowledge and experience into training programs. The trick is in discovering how to access the knowledge and relate it to the new task being learned.


    Anyone who has ever observed small children at play has noticed the differences in risk taking and flexibility even at very early ages. It seems clear that flexibility is more of a personality trait than an attribute that is part of the aging process. There is, however, a strong, enduring myth accepted by young and old alike that older people are "stuck in their ways," are rigidly conservative, resistant to change and antagonistic toward new ideas. This self perpetuating myth is deeply embedded into our consciousness and colors our expectations and interactions with older workers.

    Dr. Butler, a prominent gerontologist, is not ascribing to the notion attributed to Pope Alexander VI or Sigmund Freud that character is laid down in final form by the time a person is five years old. He believes that people change and remain open to change until they die. And he says that the idea that older people become less responsive to change because of age is not supported by scientific studies of healthy older people or by everyday observations and clinical psychiatric experience (Butler 1975).

    If age alone were the determinant of inflexibility, why would we have so many older people today packing up and moving from their lifelong homes to faraway, unfamiliar retirement places - so many traveling to distant countries where they must adjust to totally foreign cultures and customs - and so many attending colleges, universities and training institutions of all kinds taking courses in technological, business and cultural subjects. Far from resisting change many older people, even those in advanced old age, are actively seeking it out.

    It may be that the inflexibility reported by some employers is more a factor of their acceptance of deep-seated stereotypical myths, and inflexible employment practices and working conditions than age. There is little evidence that employers value older workers in hiring and retention practices and older workers may be influenced in their reactions to job-related changes by their fears of what will happen if they do not successfully master the new skills required in the new jobs. Today's unsettled workplace has not shown itself to be very forgiving and older workers, after all, have much more to lose than younger ones when companies downsize or reorganize.

    Unfortunately, some older worker program operators subconsciously believe that enrollees are inflexible and unwilling or unable to learn new technologies. These beliefs are sometimes transferred to enrollees, further damaging their self-confidence.

    Many Low-Income, Older Workers Need Help to Become More Flexible

    It is true that there are older people who are resistant to change. Many of the economically disadvantaged older workers who are candidates for federal workforce development programs fall into this category. Being ready to take a chance on new jobs and training requires a self-confidence and self-esteem that come from past successes. Most of these men and women who enter the SCSEP have not experienced these successes. Their past experiences may have left them fearful of losing what they have in exchange for the unknown. They may have had experiences in their school days which left them with little or no desire for further training. And they may be the staunchest believers in the myth that older people are inflexible and too old to learn anything new.

    But even older workers who are resistant to change are capable of adjusting their attitudes. Most older, low-income workers have had to roll with the punches and adapt to the vicissitudes of their lives. And they have survived. It is important that they are made conscious of all the different things they have done in their lives, the different places they've lived and the amount of change they've already survived.

    The SCSEP Provides an Opportunity for Older Persons to Experience Change in a Forgiving Environment

    Older, low-income adults who enter the Senior Community Service Employment Program have the opportunity to try various work and training assignments without the fear that they will fail or be fired. Furthermore, if they take an unsubsidized job and it doesn't work out, they can re-enroll in the program as soon as an opening exists. The SCSEP is set up to provide enrollees with a chance to take on new experiences in a protected setting. Enrollees can take chances without threatening their security.

    The Initial Assessment and Individual Development Plan (IDP) Process Help SCSEP Enrollees Discover the Skills They Need to Perform Community Service Assignments and to Find Unsubsidized Jobs

    The SCSEP assessment process is designed to provide program enrollees with the opportunity to take a hard look at where they are now, where they want to go in the future and what they need to do to go there. If done slowly and carefully, the assessments should help enrollees see the importance of training in obtaining their goals. Many enrollees have never thought in terms of goals; they were too busy surviving. They need to know what their options are. They also need to know about the local job market and be convinced that any training they take will make them more competitive in the job market.

    The SCSEP Encourages Enrollees to Take Advantage of Training Opportunities

    The SCSEP regulations allow training of up to 500 hours per grant year when training is consistent with the enrollees's IDP. Under the experimental private sector training [502 (e)] section of the regulations, there is no limit on the number of hours an enrollee can spend in training. Section 502 (e) specifically mandates that the training projects should emphasize second career opportunities and training for placement in growth industries or jobs needing new technological skills. These funds may also be used for training for jobs that experiment with new types of work modes such as flex time, job sharing, including jobs with reduced physical exertion.

    SCSEP regulations encourage program directors to take advantage of the training opportunities available in their communities or to develop their own training activities. SCSEP directors are expected to build relationships with one-stop centers, Private Industry Councils, JTPA, community colleges, adult education institutions and other training facilities and to arrange for or directly provide skills training, including literacy training. SCSEP regulations encourage co-enrollment between the SCSEP and other government training programs.

    Enrollees can engage in this training comfortably, knowing that even if they do poorly in the training they will not be terminated from the program. They have the option of trying different training where they may be more successful.

    Experiential Training Is Provided Through Host Agency Assignments

    All SCSEP enrollees are placed in 20-hour per week community service assignments based on the training and employment goals expressed in their assessments. The governmental or nonprofit (host) agencies where the enrollees are placed agree to provide adequate orientation, supervision, instruction and on-the-job training to each enrollee. Subsidized community service placements provide enrollees with:

  • An opportunity to return to a work environment

  • On-the-job training

  • Current work experience

  • A chance to prove their value as workers and possibly be hired by their host agencies

  • The opportunity to try a variety of placements without losing anything

    Host Agency Placements Give Enrollees a Chance to Work in Many Different Environments

    SCSEP enrollees may be placed in any governmental or nonprofit, non-partisan organization certified under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Every community has a large number of these organizations and enrollees are presented with opportunities to have different experiences in the different agencies. Host agencies must agree to provide adequate orientation, supervision, instruction and training on the job to each enrollee. They must also make a commitment to hire each enrollee when an appropriate vacancy exists. A possible list of host agencies would include:

    Adult Education Centers

    Area Agencies on Aging

    Art Galleries and Institutes

    Boys Clubs

    Commissions or Councils on Aging

    Community Action Agencies

    Community Centers

    Community Colleges

    Community Development Agencies


    Day Care Centers (Adult or


    Domestic Abuse Shelters

    Drug Abuse Treatment Centers

    Education (Public Schools)

    Employment Centers (Public or


    Environmental Protection Services

    Ethnic/Cultural Centers

    Food Banks


    Girls Clubs

    Goodwill Industries

    Government Offices (Town, City, County, Federal)

    Head Start

    Health Departments and Centers

    Heart Associations

    Home Health Care Agencies

    Hospices (Public or Nonprofit)

    Hospitals (Public or Nonprofit)

    Housing Authorities

    Legal Aid Societies


    Literacy Councils

    Medical Clinics (Public or Nonprofit)

    Mental Health Agencies

    Museums (Public or Nonprofit)

    Neighborhood Centers

    Nurseries (Children)

    Nutrition Programs

    Ombudsman Offices

    Outreach and Information Referral Programs

    Organizations Assisting People with Disabilities

    Parks Services

    Police Departments

    Pre-School Centers

    Public Information Offices

    Red Cross Centers

    Rehabilitation Centers

    Retarded Persons Centers

    Retired Senior Volunteer Services

    Salvation Army

    Senior Corps of Retired Executives

    Senior Citizens Centers

    Settlement Houses

    Sheltered Workshops

    Shelters for Homeless Persons

    Social Services Departments

    Transportation Departments

    United Way Agencies

    Veterans Hospitals

    Vocational Education Centers

    Vocational Rehabilitation

    Voluntary Agency Centers

    Weatherization Projects

    Welfare Departments

    YMCAs and YWCAs

    Youth Centers

    The SCSEP Provides Opportunities for Out-of-the Ordinary Work Assignments

    A group of SCSEP practitioners in a focus group at a recent SSAI training conference contributed the following examples of unusual host agency placements:

    Internet assistant in library

    Community theater aide

    Host of radio show for kids

    Artist at state university

    Aide in wild life center

    Conductor of oral/written driver exams

    Play writer for cultural theater

    Buffalo caretaker in park

    Art gallery docent

    Small theater director

    Public access TV aide

    Artist at state university

    "Talking Books" reader

    Bilingual instructor

    Animal care giver

    Meeting, trip planner for center

    Monitor- juvenile public service

    Technical writer of welfare to work tracts

    Ceramics instructor in senior center

    Victims assistance aide

    Interpreter for deaf persons

    ESOL and GED trainer

    Runs virtual rural one-stop

    City jail librarian

    Security guard

    Crisis intervention counselor

    Male child care aide

    TV camera crew member

    Golf instructor

    Microfilmer - court records


    Tour guide.

    Work assignments in host agencies are expected to improve or expand existing community services or originate services that would not exist without the SCSEP. Enrollees most commonly work as teachers aides, receptionists, office workers, computer operators, custodians, librarians, child care workers, bookkeepers, drivers and nutrition site managers. In one SCSEP run by a national aging organization, more than 10,000 enrollees have nearly 1,000 different job classifications.

    The SCSEP Encourages Enrollees to Try New Occupations and Learn New Skills

    In one SCSEP project in Michigan, the project director took a group of women who had minimal education and had spent their entire lives working on farms. She provided training for them in general office skills and word processing and placed them in local agencies. They relished their new work and within a relatively short time were hired in good paying jobs as secretaries. The SCSEP provided these people - all in their 60s and 70s - with the opportunity to engage in careers that would not have been possible without the program.

    The SCSEP is a program designed to meet the needs of the enrollee, not the host agency. When the host agency has provided as much training as possible to the enrollee, the enrollee should be rotated to another agency for more training or to another training position within the same agency.

    Older Workers Become More Flexible as They Gain Self-Confidence

    One of the synonyms for self-confident is "unafraid." It is fear which makes people afraid to take chances, be more flexible, more adaptable and more accepting of new technology. The fear of failure, of being fired, of losing what you have in hand are powerful reasons to resist change.

    Older people just by living longer have already suffered many losses of family, friends and sometimes jobs, homes and valued possessions. It does not get easier to take on more losses.

    SCSEP enrollees can lose their fear of failure by being successful in their host agency work assignments and in the training provided to them through the program. Success breeds success. Enrollees who do a good job in their work assignments know they have something of value to offer employers. Those who go through training successfully and come out with valid saleable skills are more comfortable with new ventures.

    Providing training and work opportunities for low-income, older adults in situations free from the threat of failure increases their ability to meet the demands of a highly competitive, technological society and adds to the nation's productive workforce. The SCSEP provides experiences that encourage flexibility and adaptability by exposing enrollees to a variety of work and training environments which are designed to build the self-confidence required for them to be open to new challenges.


    A Four-Step Method That Works

    Dorothy Thomas, who for more than 20 years trained Senior AIDES Program directors for SSAI's Senior Community Service Employment Program, used the following method for teaching practical skills to older, low-income adults. It is an adaptation of the Training Within Industry Program developed by the War Manpower Commission in World War II and has been used successfully ever since. The four-step method teaches older adults how to accomplish such diverse tasks as operating a machine, filing papers or any of the various duties SCSEP enrollees perform at work sites. The method can be used to train individuals or groups. It is especially effective in training older workers for community service assignments and can be done by a trainer or by the host agency supervisor.


    1. Get people to want to learn the task.

    2. Instruct them on how to do it correctly.

    3. Give them an opportunity to practice.

    4. Follow-up on job performance.

    It is not enough to TELL someone how to do something, or to SHOW someone how to do something; but

    a combination of TELLING and SHOWING and providing opportunity for PRACTICE with consistent performance FEEDBACK will produce results.

    The Instructor's Pre-training Preparation

    Before any training takes place, the instructor should:

  • Decide how much can be taught at one session and avoid overload.
  • Studies on adult learning show that older adults like to master one task and get a feeling of accomplishment before moving on to the next step. Even a small success can help older adults believe they can learn.

    1. Start each task with an action verb (e.g., Greet each visitor).
    2. Provide suggestions to the learners in the form of key points to help them perform each step correctly and effectively. Suggestions might include reasons for doing a step in a certain way or things that may go wrong.

    4. Have everything ready: all papers, forms, machines, tools, instruction books and supplies needed for the instruction.

    5. Arrange the teaching/learning space to provide the best learning conditions: cleared table or desk, chairs, few distractions. Check to be sure the trainee is comfortable and can hear and see adequately.


    • Put the trainees at ease.

    • Help the trainees to have confidence that you know how to do the task and that you believe they can learn how to do it.

    • Some older adults often believe, "I'm too old to learn," but most studies on older learning show that most older adults can learn as well as younger people. Being at ease is one of the conditions.

    • Describe what is to be taught (or learned) in the session.

    • Get the trainees interested in learning the task. Why is it important to the agency? Why is it important to trainees?

    • Find out what the trainees may already know about the task. Have they ever done anything similar? Previous experience can facilitate learning. If a trainee can type, that helps in learning work processing. Sometimes previous related experience can be a disadvantage. If the trainee has been performing a task for a long time in a certain way he/she may resist learning a new way to perform the task.

    • Place the trainee in the correct place to learn. If you are teaching someone to fill out a form, have the learner sit beside you. If the learner sits opposite you the operation will be seen backwards.


    • Tell, show and do, one step at a time. Don't go too fast. One of the conditions under which older adults learn best is without any time pressure. Many older workers take longer to learn.

    • Stress the Key Points for each step. Much of your instruction will deal with Key Points, the things which can make or break the job.

    • Instruct clearly. Use simple terms. Avoid jargon. A trainee may get confused if a trainer uses technical or unfamiliar terms unless those terms are necessary to do the job and are explained. If you use an acronym, explain it or write out the full words. Be consistent. Don't use two or three labels for the same thing.

    • Instruct in sequence. It has a bad effect on the learning process when a trainer says, "Oh, I forgot to say . . ." or "I should have told you that..."

    • Instruct patiently. Even the slightest indication that the trainer thinks the trainee is slow may set up a barrier to more learning.


    • Sometimes the trainee can practice the actual task, as in typing or operating a copying machine.

    • Usually a practice exercise is helpful in giving an opportunity to apply what was just taught and allow the trainer to correct mistakes or misunderstandings.


      This step is usually done by the host agency supervisor:

    • Put the trainee on his or her own.

    • Check frequently to be sure the work is being done correctly.

    • Encourage questions from the trainee.

    • Continue with normal supervision.


      Why is this job important?

    • People come to the City Hall with a number of problems. Their whole impression of the city government can be affected by the way you treat them at the reception desk. We want them to have a good impression of our city government.

    • People who come to the City Hall are often in distress. They may need food, a place to live or fuel assistance. A helpful receptionist can be the first step in relieving this distress.

    • If you don't direct them to the right office, they may leave the building and fail to get the service they need and to which they are entitled.


      Promptly greet each person who comes to the desk.

      Find out what the visitor wants.

      Direct the visitor to the correct office.

      Write the floor number and room number on this pink slip.

      Direct visitors to the elevators.


      People don't like to wait while you carry on other business.

      "Good morning. May I help you?" Listen carefully and repeat the request to be sure you have understood the visitor.

      Use the City Hall Directory Card. It has all city offices. If you don't know what office provides the service, check the circular file on the reception desk. It is organized by services. Here is one of the cards in the file: Food Banks ... names and addresses. Be sure to send them to the right office so they don't feel as if they are getting the run around.

      Write legibly with large numbers so visitors will be able to read your instructions.

      If the visitors need a service that is not provided at City Hall, try to find where the service is provided.

      Fill in the blue referral slip. Include directions for getting to the right building.

      (If you have to leave the desk at a time other than your scheduled breaks, call me, extension XXXX, and I will send a relief receptionist.)

      Make an entry on the Daily Tally Sheet as soon as the visitor leaves the desk to record how many people come to the desk and the nature of their inquiries.

      Make sure each visitor leaves with the impression that you have done your best!

      It is part of your job to direct people to the office that provides the needed service. Use the Federal Office Building Directory, or the County Building Directory or the Directory of Social Services to locate the correct office.

      Give directions clearly and slowly. Check for understanding. Take particular care if the visitor has a language problem.

      Do this promptly. It is easy to forget if you have a number of visitors at the same time.


      ANGER Try to maintain your temper. The way you treat people will affect their view of the whole city government.

      AN EMPTY

      DESK Don't leave the reception desk unattended. If visitors come and there is no one there, they may get a dim view of city hall.


      In Oakland, California, The National Senior Citizens Education & Research Center's Senior AIDES Program is successfully training older workers for jobs in the ever-growing child care field. The Senior AIDES Program in Oakland, sponsored by the City of Oakland, Aging, Health & Human Services, and Oakland's Private Industry Council cooperate to provide low-income older residents who are at least 55 years old with training and experience that will qualify them as child care aides or assistants.

      The Senior AIDES Program pays wages to the training participants, together with costs of obtaining fingerprints and TB tests, teaching supplies, tuition and salary of a job developer/career counselor to work with those taking the training. The Jobs Training Partnership Act (JTPA), through its 5% set aside for older workers, funds the training costs for the six college credits in early childhood education provided by the Neighborhood Accreditation Project of the Association of Children Services.

      This training is an excellent example of a program geared to the needs of older workers. It is job-related, leads to existing job openings, and provides opportunities for hands-on application of skills during the learning process. It brings the benefits of lifetimes of wisdom and experience to a new generation while providing older workers with the opportunity to qualify for work that will bring rewards that are physical, mental and economic.

      There Is a Demonstrated Need for the Skills Taught in the Training

      Child care is one of the economy's fastest growing service industries and there is presently a 45% rate of turnover for child care assistants in the area where the training is given. Further, there is growing evidence that child care providers look to older workers as an increasingly viable source of staff members. There is also a critical need for substitutes in child care centers. The program curriculum provides the information and skills for immediate employability.

      The Training Is Provided by a Solid, Qualified Training Facility

      The training facility has successfully operated a training program for care givers working with infants, toddler, and preschoolers for over ten years. In addition to the program for child care aides and assistants, it offers the full 12 units of college work in early childhood education that is required by California state licensing for day care center employees as well as leadership training and technical assistance.

      The Training Has Definite, Definable Results

      This training results in the six college credits units that qualify participants as child care aides or assistants. It also provides certificates in CPR, first aid and infectious disease control.

      The Assessment Process Addresses the Special Needs of Older Workers

      During the assessment process, a counselor works with the applicant to address problems areas such as employment history, transportation, financial problems and other barriers to employment. During this process, basic skills are tested and assessed using CASAS standardized tests for math and English skills. In order to successfully complete the Assets Training Program trainees must possess the following emotional traits and academic skills:

      Emotional Traits -

      Willingness to commit to their own growth and development




      Academic Skills -

      Reading - The ability to read at an eighth grade level. (In some situations those reading below 8th grade may be candidates for the program.)

      Writing - The ability to write papers which effectively communicate what they think and feel about a certain topic

      Thinking - The ability to focus on classroom materials and presentations and to understand how they relate to their on-sit training work with young children.

      Speech - The ability and willingness to communicate their thoughts and feelings effectively and appropriately with teachers, coworkers and children.

      Self-Esteem Issues Are Addressed

      Before training begins, participants attend life skills classes to work on self-esteem issues. In addition, there is a unit within the curriculum devoted to self-esteem and self-confidence building. The unit covers the following topics:

      1. What Is Self-Esteem and Why Is it Essential?

      2. Making a Change for the Better.

      3. Goal Setting: Our Sense of Direction.

      4. Self-Esteem and the Family.

      5. Investing in Your Self-Esteem.

      The Training Is Older-Worker Oriented

      This training is designed for about 12 low-income persons - all 55 years old or older. There is no competition with trainees under 55. The classroom logistics accommodate the physical needs of older persons and the material is paced to the requirements of the participants. This program has been a successful training component in the Oakland project for the last five years.

      The course lasts for 20 weeks, with four-hour sessions meeting five days per week, providing 109 hours of classroom work, plus 144 hours of on-the-job training. The sites for on-the-job training are model child care centers and family day care homes. Participants are paid while training.

      The Trainers Are Mature Workers

      The classroom trainers are mature, highly qualified individuals who are experienced in older worker training. One is 50 years old; the other is 60.

      A Career Counselor Locates Unsubsidized Employment for Graduates

      Program graduates are job ready. They have been fingerprinted and have had the necessary physical examinations and TB tests. Job search counselors work with graduates to assess their interests and strengths and match them with the needs of local employers. The trainees work with staff until placed in a full or part-time job. Staff also helps those trainees in self-directed job searches. Monthly peer counseling support is also offered.

      Post Placement Services Are Provided for Training Participants and Employers

      After placement, the probability of job success and the likelihood of remaining on the job are increased through a variety of counseling and supportive services. Follow-up contacts are made and documented after 30 days and after six months to verify continued employment.




      About 200 SCSEP practitioners listed the following as attributes of the older, low income enrollees they work with in the National Senior Citizens Education and Research Center's Senior AIDES Program. They report that in comparison with younger adult workers, they have found SCSEP older workers:

      Are more reliable.

      Are more loyal.

      Are more committed to work.

      Go to work sick or well.

      Are more eager to please.

      Work better with others.

      Follow directions more readily.

      Respect authority figures.

      Have better work habits.

      Are more familiar with work etiquette.

      Are more appreciative.

      Understand the reason for work.

      Have longer work experience.

      Have well-defined work ethics.

      Are more eager to work.

      Are more patient working through problems.

      Are more punctual.

      Are more responsible.

      Are less likely to job hop.

      Have less need for upward mobility.

      Have fewer problems with drugs/alcohol.

      Have more stability.

      Had more life experiences.

      Are more willing to take training.

      Are better role models.

      Have more common sense.

      Have more negative self images.

      Have lower self-esteem.

      Lack sense of achievement.

      Have lower motivation to succeed.

      Have defeatist attitudes.

      Have more physical barriers.

      Have more health problems.

      Have less confidence.

      Need remedial training .

      Need basic skills training.

      Need extra training time.

      Need more repetition.

      Need more case management.

      Underestimate abilities.

      Feel less needed.

      Feel less empowered.

      Are more cautious.

      Have more transportation problems.

      Fear change and new beginnings.

      Feel too old to get a job.

      Have longer histories of rejection.

      Have lower tolerance for new technology.

      Suffer age discrimination in job markets.

      Fear work place.

      Have different personal values.

      Are more inflexible.

      Are unclear about goals.

      Take longer to find jobs.

      Have different reasons for working.

      Are less familiar with technology.

      Are more resistant to change.

      Require more visual and rote teaching.

      Have different coping skills.

      Have more problems with housing/finances.

      Don't want to drive or be out at night.

      Have more debt.

      Are more insecure.

      Fear losing benefits.

      Want short-term training.

      Have less education.

      Need more supportive services.

      Lack family/financial support.

      Have less hope.

      Lack knowledge of resources.



      Understanding the needs of the older worker and matching these needs with the employer.

      • Respecting older workers and showing genuine interest in them.
      • Being honest and realistic.
      • Believing the older workers can and will succeed helps them to succeed. Whatever exercises are used to develop job search strategies, a trainer that motivates and empowers older workers will have great results.
      • Being patient and providing guidance - continuously empowering enrollees with encouragement and "can do" techniques; believing in their abilities. Promoting the idea that there is no failure in failing because something was learned from the experience.
      • Teaching enrollees how to look at their skills and recognize which are transferrable to jobs.
      • Being thorough when doing initial assessments and IDPs. Following up consistently.

      • Providing empathy, positive feedback, support while encouraging and nurturing them through new experiences and putting new enrollees in touch with the success stories of SCSEP participants.

      Being diplomatic.

      Understanding that younger workers tend to overrate their skills while SCSEP enrollees tend to underrate theirs.

      Offering choices.

      Placing enrollees in host agencies that can hire and/or do a good job training.

      Co-enrolling enrollees in other programs.

      Earning the older workers' trust.

      Using older trainers. Older workers are more comfortable with other older people.

      Providing job search classes and/or job clubs.

      Referring older workers to jobs that they are compatible with, that will allow them to renew or learn new marketable skills.

      Having enrollees make a commitment and seeing to it that they stick with it. Keeping enrollees focused on their goals.

      Providing kudos and recognition of jobs well done.

      Having older workers tell the project director their employment goals - not having the goals come from the project director.

      Asking older workers their opinions and then praising them for their ideas. Helping them to reach their own goals.

      Helping enrollees identify their skills.

      Treating enrollees as workers - not older workers.

      Building on existing skills. Assuring the enrollees that they have many skills; they need to recognize homemaking and child rearing as skills.

      Enumerating the benefits of a permanent, unsubsidized job.

      Conducting in-service job training and language skills workshops.

      Monitoring enrollees and host agencies to be aware of progress, problems, changes, etc.

      Providing sincere encouragement.

      Using quarterly meetings meaningfully.

      Recognizing that there is a place for them.

      Providing praise.

      Being firm.

      Involving enrollees in decisions affecting them.

      Outlining what is expected from them.


      Helping enrollees overcome reluctance to try new things.

      Listening, a lot of listening.

      Helping enrollees to overcome "fright."

      Being patient, yet firm.

      At enrollee meetings: magnifying overhead layouts, having enrollees ask or write down their questions of guest speakers.

      Using larger type; always using microphone at meetings.

      Designing classes specifically for older workers.

      In first interview - Welcoming applicants in a genuine way. Being patient.

      Transporting enrollees to their interviews and giving pep talks along the way.

      Allowing enrollees to share their personal problems so they know that they are valued as people, not just workers.


      Administration on Aging. Profile of Older Americans: 1997. Washington, DC, 1997.

      American Association of Retired Persons. Valuing Older Workers: A Study of Costs and Productivity. Washington, DC: AARP, 1995.

      American Association of Retired Persons. Business and Older Workers. Washington, DC: AARP, 1989.

      American Association of Retired Persons. Workers Over 50: Old Myths, New Realities. Washington, DC: AARP, 1985.

      Butler, R.N. Why Survive? Being Old in America. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1975.

      Filipczak, B. "Old Dogs, New Tricks," Training, May 1998.

      Fyock, C.D. America's Work Force Is Coming of Age. NY, NY: Lexington Books. 1990.

      Gross, D. Using Motivation and Training to Increase Job Placements. Silver Spring, MD: The National Senior Citizens Education & Research Center, Inc. for the U.S. Department of Labor, 1997.

      Henig, R.M. The Myth of Senility. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company and AARP, Washington, DC, 1985.

      Manheimer, R.J. The Second Middle Age: Looking Differently at Life Beyond 50. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press, 1995.

      Lester, B. A Practitioner's Guide for Training Older Workers. Washington, DC: National Commission for Employment Policy, 1984.

      Moore, J. Developing Successful Adult Basic Education Programs for Older Adults. Asheboro, NC: Randolph Community College, n.d.

      Plett, P.C. and Lester, B.T. Training for Older People: A handbook. Geneva, Switzerland: International Labour Organization, 1991.

      Poulos, S. and Nightingale, D.M. The Aging Baby Boom: Implications for Employment and Training Programs. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, for the U.S. Department of Labor, 1997.

      Restak, R.M. Older & Wiser: How to Maintain Peak Mental Ability for As Long As You Live. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

      This review was prepared by Dorothea Gross, consultant to the National Senior Citizens Education & Research Center's Senior AIDES Program. It is part of a series using the practical experiences of Senior Community Service Employment Program professionals in designing materials to help increase unsubsidized placements for older workers.

      Special thanks go to Dorothy Thomas, who for twenty years was the primary trainer for SSAI's Senior AIDES Program and who adapted the Four-Step Training Process for SCSEP older workers.

      Thanks also to Brendalynn Goodall, director of SSAI's Senior AIDES Project sponsored by the City of Oakland, California Department on Aging, for her example of a successful SCSEP older worker training program.

      The handbook was prepared under the auspices of Department of Labor Grant No. D-6135-7-00-81-55 to the Senior AIDES Program of the National Senior Citizens Education & Research Center, Inc. in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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