Arlington County is, at 26 square miles of land area, one of the smallest counties in the United States. But it is not small in its number of senior citizens - or in the number of them who want to work.

About 16 percent of the population - a figure well above the state average - is age 60 or more, said Terri Lynch, director of the country-operated Job Development Service.

The servive, charging no fees, will help any unemployed county resident, of any age, to get a job, But its specialty is senior citizens, which it classifies for its purpose as those age 55 and over.

"We made placements of 425 senior adults in the six months of January through June," said Lynch. About 40 percent of referrals result in placement, she noted. The 425 consisted of 255 in one-time-only jobs, 124 part-time and 46 full-time.

For the same six months, placement of people younger than age 55 totaled 48 - of which 256 were one-time-only, 97 were part-time and 136 were full-time.

The service tries to do a meticulous job of fitting the person to the position by considering many factors including skills, age, strength and transportation between home and work site.

"We also try to counsel the person giving us the vacancy, based on our experience," said staff member Warren Clardy.

Clardy's specialty is finding people willing and able to do small maintenance and repair jobs such as electrical work, unstopping a drain or repleceing a few roof shingles. These are jobs that often are too small to attract contractors, but provide the unemployed one-time-only jobs.

Whether the person doing the work is or is not a senior, the homeowner often is. And the county has thus performed a double service, said Clardy's colleague, Martha Fletcher. It has provided employment, and it has helped keep the homeowner in his or her own home - and out of a nursing home.

Fletcher recalls that Arlington's jobs-for-seniors operation began in 1954, and was handled by the Soroptimist Club.The county took it over about 1963 at Soroptimist request when the volume became too heavy, she said.

Clardy noted that many people he counsels associate work with longevity. Clardy recalled one man he placed at age 75 who told him: "If I don't work, I'm going to die, and I'd like to postpone that."

Mary Carroll, another counselor, estimates that 30 percent of the people she sees are age 55 and over. Many of them are professional people, retired from the Foreign Service or elsewhere in government. Some present a placement problem, but retired accountants do not. "I have filled countelss jobs with them," she said.

The service has attempted to make its potential for help increasingly known to minorities, including blacks, the Spanish-speaking and Arlington's new influx of Vietnamese. Lynch is pleased with improved results, but still not satisfied.

Of a recent sampling of 541 people served, Lynch said, 10 percent were black and 4 1/2 percent were other minorities.

Placements involve people whose ages range in the 80s, mostly for companion work for the disabled or infirm. Sometimes age indicates a change in course, like the determined painter in his 70s who was steered away form climbing tall ladders.

If a potential employe has a special condition of employment, it is passed along to the potential employer before an interview. One woman wanted it known, that, immediately upon arrival in an employer's home, she would go to the refrigerator and prepare breakfast. The condition was treated no differently than a request for an eat-in lunch.

Salaries and wages "are definitely left to the two individuals to [WORD ILLEGIBLE] out," said Lynch.

The service has a staff of 13: four full-time paid, five part-time paid, and four regular volunteers. Its annual budget is about $75,000. It receives funds from Arlington County and two federal programs, the Comprehensive Employment Training Act and the Older American Act.

It is located on the ground floor of 2100 North 14th St., across 14th Street from the Arlington courthouse. Its office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. MOonday through Friday, and its phone number is 588-2184.