Late Life Careers

 By: Elaine Marze

It’s been said, “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.”  On the other hand, that person obviously hadn’t met all the old dogs, so to speak.


It is a fact of life many people reach their senior years and realize the financial safety net they had counted on does not meet current demands.  Sometimes unexpected illnesses or catastrophes occur and drain savings accounts that were not very big to begin with.  Investments may fail to pay off.  Or maybe a person gets bored and simply wants to go back to work part time. 


What employment opportunities are available to a person who is not in the first flush of youth, especially one with rusty job skills, if any at all?  When members of the older generation get a paying job, sometimes it is the result of imagination and initiative.   Sometimes it takes a little help from a friend.


Gloria Goldsby started sewing in her home with a friend after they retired.  The two of them began their commercial enterprise making costumes for the Spurs Dance Line at a local High School.


 “The business gave me a little extra,” Goldsby explained.  “We took vacations on my sewing money including to New York.” Their business, Custom Stitches, went from a single-thread Brother Embroidery machine in Goldsby’s living room to a nine-thread commercial machine similar to what Bass Pro stores use.  The two women started personalizing gift items for friends and soon the word spread.    


Role playing at Fort Polk in Louisiana has become the go-to place for retirees and even home-makers that may not have marketable skills. Fort Polk is where soldiers go to train for deployment to the Middle East.  Playing an anti-American villager to teach soldiers what to expect takes place “way out on the backend of Camp Polk” where little villages are set-up staffed by older people from neighboring areas.   


The hours, 5:00 a.m. till 7 or 8 p.m. and the trip to “Camp Polk” (the original name that older folks still use) are long, but job offers for people in their seventies are pretty scarce.

A role player may be asked to participate in road blocking or “stick lanes” and playing a terrorist hiding guns from the soldiers. They dress and live like Iraqis or Afghans while they are there.


Virginia Bozeman cleaned houses for “running money” as she describes buying gas so she can “run” to the grocery store and Wal-Mart.  She believes she does not have marketable skills for most other jobs “especially at my age”. In spite of her home being the hub of a large family including grandchildren and all that entails, Bozeman cleaned several houses a week. The advantage of cleaning houses is that she sets her own hours.  Being her own boss is also good because she can decide who she wants to work for.  “I work for real sweet people.  If they weren’t, I’d quit them,” she said.


It’s one thing to start a second career because you are bored or for vacation dollars, but some people work a late-life job because it is financially crucial. One woman in her late seventies worked as a surgical nurse most of her life but said,  “Now they all use computers and I don’t know how, so hospitals won’t hire me.  You’ve got to have computer experience”.


 Eventually she had to work as a private live-in nurse.  Employment as a care-giver can be stressful when you have to be away from a husband and family for long periods of time.  Still, working is essential for financial reasons so she stuck with it, even dealing with patients whose dementia caused them to be very difficult to handle. “I’d like to do something different than live-in nursing.  I’ve even applied at an animal shelter. At my age, I can’t be choosy.”


Care-giver duties to bedridden patients include preparing supper, giving medications, dealing with bedpans, housework and baths. There’s also a lot of lifting for little ladies over 60.


One job that is popular with men who like to stay active after retirement is driving for outfits like Enterprise Rent-a-Car Company that sells cars as well as rents them out.  They hire drivers who deliver cars from one city and state to another. Frequently drivers accompany each other so it gives them a social life in addition to source of income. Sometimes they fill up a 15 passenger van and go to one or more locations, and then they each drive a car back.


Other self-made opportunities include: landscaping, small motor repair, cake decorating, catering, dog-grooming, child care and golf-cart repair and selling.  The work ethic and do-or-die attitude of the “older generation” is a credit to their up-bringing and an example for younger people.