Low-Income Seniors Find Wealth of Resources

By Toni Vranjes

November 22, 2010 2 Comments

When Mary Aguilar moved from Texas to California in March 2008, she struggled to make ends meet. After leaving her clerical job with the sheriff’s office in San Antonio to care for her sick mother in Los Angeles, she couldn’t find work, and she had to go on welfare to survive.

Earlier this year, her fortunes improved. Aguilar enrolled in Title V, a federally funded program that provides on-the-job training for low-income seniors. She soon landed a part-time training position at a WorkSource career center in East Los Angeles.

Aguilar, who lives in Alhambra, Calif., hopes that the skills and support she’s gained will help her find a permanent job as a social worker.

“The program has given me the confidence to keep going,” says Aguilar, 56.

Mary Aguilar at the East Los Angeles WorkSource center.

The Title V program began in 1965 with the passage of the Older Americans Act. It places seniors in federally subsidized, temporary positions at nonprofit groups or government agencies. Participants often work at schools, day-care centers, hospitals, senior centers, or libraries.

The ultimate goal is to help seniors find unsubsidized, permanent jobs.

To qualify, people must be age 55 or older. They also must be unemployed, and their family income can’t be more than 125 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

On average, participants work 20 hours each week in these training positions, according to the U.S. Labor Department. They receive the highest possible minimum wage, whether that’s the federal, state or local rate. Seniors can remain in the program for up to four years, although waivers may be granted.

Aguilar has been working at the East Los Angeles WorkSource center for eight months. At the center, she helps job seekers use the computers, phones and other free resources. Sheworks there each weekday from 8 am to noon, earning $8 an hour.

Mary Aguilar helps a job seeker go online to look for work.

Through her training at the WorkSource center, Aguilar has improved her computer skills and has gained experience working with the public.

To boost her career prospects, she also attends night classes at East Los Angeles community college. Aguilar eventually plans to transfer to Cal State Los Angeles and get a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

The Title V program requires participants to seek unsubsidized employment, and Aguilar’s placement at WorkSource gives her convenient access to valuable tools. During slow periods at the center, she’s allowed to use the computers to look for permanent work. Aguilar has been applying for different types of positions, though her ultimate goal is to find a social-worker job in the healthcare field.

Since Aguilar started at WorkSource, she’s gone on a few interviews, but she hasn’t received an offer yet. But Aguilar isn’t giving up hope. She has faith that it’s just a matter of time before she gets a permanent job.

The often grueling and frustrating realities of the job search have drawn more and more seniors to the program in recent years. Nationwide, demand for Title V has been increasing, but it’s unclear whether that’s because of the tough economy or the aging population, according to a Labor Department spokesperson.

During the year that ended this past June, the program served nearly 103,990 people. About 9,120 of the participants found unsubsidized employment.

In the previous year, about 89,320 seniors enrolled in the program, and about 12,160 of the enrollees landed an unsubsidized job.

To fund the program, the U.S. Labor Department provides grants to national nonprofit groups and to state governments. The states often subgrant funds to local agencies.

One nonprofit group that receives federal grants is the National Association for Hispanic Elderly, which placed Aguilar at the WorkSource center. The group operates the Title V program in four states and the District of Columbia.

Mary Aguilar helps a job seeker inquire about unemployment benefits.

Many seniors who come to the program are desperate, says Carmela Lacayo, president and CEO of the association. The group sees many people who have fallen on hard times, as they face a tough job market, inadequate retirement savings, and the ever-present threat of age bias.

The National Association for Hispanic Elderly offers many services to aid seniors. Program administrators evaluate their abilities and interests, and they help them develop an employment plan. The organization holds meetings on topics such as job-search strategies and healthy lifestyles. Through the group, seniors also have the chance to join “job clubs” — small support groups that meet periodically to learn more about job-search skills.

“People who come to this program are demoralized,” Lacayo says. “So for a lot of seniors, you’ve got to restore their dignity. That’s what the program does — it makes people feel that they’re valuable.”

Aguilar agrees.

“A lot of times we think we’re too old,” she says. “But we’re not too old. We can bring so much to the table.”

For more information on the Title V program (also known as the Senior Community Service Employment Program), visit the Labor Department’s website.

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2 Comments to “Low-Income Seniors Find Wealth of Resources”
  1. Dwight Royer says:

    I am 67, soon 68. I have filled out many applications but received no offers. I just heard about the Title V program. Can you help me? Also, are there any legitimate Work At Home opportunities? I have a wife with a disability.

  2. Toni Vranjes says:

    Hi Dwight,

    To learn about Title V training opportunities in your local area, you can call this toll-free help line: (877) 872-5627.

    As for work-at-home jobs, there are a lot of scams out there, but there are also some legitimate work-at-home opportunities. One reputable source is FlexJobs.

    Best of luck to you!

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