For the elderly in Prince George's County who seek work, help is provided by the department of Services and Programs for the Aging. Any interested resident 55 years of age or elder is invited to file an application for employment.
Each applicant is scheduled for a personal interview during which the applicant's interests, capabilities and limitations are assessed and appropriate work assignments determined. The Employment Opportunities Program, directed by James Foley, was initiated last June during administrative reorganization when the division on aging became a department.
Now, three or four placements are made each a week. Foley makes personal calls on area business, discussing the need for - and wisdom of - hiring the elderly.
Most assignments are to permanent part-time jobs of about 20 hours per week. Income usually is within the allowable limit under Social Security regulations, and also is "somewhat more realistic with respect to the stamina of elderly persons," Foley said. Rate of pay is left for employer-employee negotiation and varies according to job requirements.
Employment opportunitites are listed monthly in the Senior Citizen that is published by the department. A recent issue contained the following: receptionist, doctor's office, evening hours; typist, capable of using transcribing equipment; live-in companion, light house work; carpenter, for consultation work; drug store clerk; receptionist, secretarial service. So far, the most common requests received are for daytime baby sitters and live-in companions.
While earnings are an important aspect of the employment program because most elderly persons must live on reduced incomes, Foley said he believes the therapeutic value of work is equally important.
"It gives the older perosn a renewed sense of personal worth," he said.
In addition to employment services, there are special programs designed specifically to help the elderly poor. One is the Senior Aide Program. this is a Title IX provision (Older Americans Act, amended) that involves matching funds from the counties.
Senior aides, who must be 55 or older, are assigned work only in public or private non-profit agencies. One requirement is that the aide be someone below the poverty level in other income. This level is currently $2,970 for a single person and $3,930 for a couple.
In Montgomery County, the Senior, Aide program is administered by the Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington under sponsorship of the National Council of Senior Citizens. According to Judith Shafford, who directs the program, about 60 elderly persons now have senior aide jobs.
Shafford is convinced that income is not the only benefit.
"It is a means of avoiding isolation and aof becoming involved in significant ways. Aides get a great deal of satisfaction from helping others," she said.
Many older persons, particularly women who have never been in the labor force, are inclined to feel lacking in qualifications for outside employment. However, as Shafford observed, "anyone who has managed a household for 30 or 40 years has skills to offer."
Further information is available from the Jewish Council office, 881-8782.
In Prince George's County, the Senior Aide program, is administered by the Department of Aging, Employment Opportunities section. Funds are made available through the State Office on Aging. The various provisions and requirements are similar to those described for Montgomery County.
There are special progrms, described previously in this column, that employ seniors. These include the transportation, nutrition and home visitors programs all operated by the area offices on aging.
One special program, Foster Grandparents, should be mentioned because there is a small stipend involved, of $1,00 per hour. Foster Grandparents are seniors who help physically, mentally or socially handicapped children who are institutionalized. The Department on Aging regards this as a service program rather than an employment program.
In addition to programs directly operated or sponsored by area offices on aging, some elderly find employment through the CETA program (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973). The State Office on Aging and federal funds are involved in this program, but administration is usually local.
Area offices for the elderly are probably the best single source of information about employment opportunities for seniors because those offices are familiar with all of the programs designed to help the elderly. In Montgomery County, the number to call is 279-1487, and in Prince George's County, the number is 350-0650.