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Pennsylvania

Website Links Older Adults to Jobs or Volunteer Work

Coming of Age connects people 50+ with jobs

Pennsylvania State Page News March 2011

Accountant Karen Ragland, 60, landed a job through the Coming of Age website. Besides a job bank, Coming of Age offers training for nonprofit organizations and encourages them to view older volunteers as a valuable resource. — Matt Roth

Discouraged after 10 months of job hunting, Karen Ragland doubted she'd ever find work submitting applications online or an employer who wouldn't think she was too old and overqualified.

Then Ragland, 60, discovered a website for adults over 50. She applied for a bookkeeping job posted on ComingofAge.org.

Eight hours after she hit the send button, Ragland got the call that led to her job at the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association near her home in Philadelphia's Germantown-Mount Airy section.

Bill Cameron, her new supervisor, was wowed by Ragland's experience as an accountant and an auditor. "She's been there and done that," he said. "We were fortunate."

Ragland credits the website focused on those 50 and older with helping her stay in the workforce. "It was the only website I've come across where I felt I'm clearly not going to run into an issue of age."

The popular job bank is just one aspect of Coming of Age, a Philadelphia-based collaboration founded in 2002 by AARP, Philadelphia public radio station WHYY, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Intergenerational Center at Temple University to promote civic engagement.

Its other online features include an events calendar, lists of volunteer opportunities and articles on topics ranging from caregiving to companionship.

Coming of Age also conducts seminars for people over 50 and for community organizations.

It's all part of the nine-year-old group's mission of nurturing service, learning and leadership among older adults and building the capacity of organizations to use those skills and passions.

One seminar, Explore Your Future, helps people decide whether they want to learn, earn or serve.

"This is for the person who is saying, 'What can I do now?' " said David Kalinoski, AARP Pennsylvania associate state director. "Sometimes people get the sense that now they have time to pursue their dreams, but they don't know how to get started. They're asking, 'How can I harness those dreams that have been in the back of my mind since I was a teenager and put them into a blueprint I can follow for the rest of my life?' "

As Coming of Age helps direct people over 50 into volunteerism, it also nudges nonprofit organizations into thinking of those volunteers as a precious resource.

"For 74 percent of this population, giving back is … a very important part of their lives, and 19 percent said it was an important part of their lives," said Dick Goldberg, Coming of Age's director. "Put those numbers together, and you've got a huge number of people who want to volunteer."

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