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Recession Survivors: Where Are They Now?

7 older Americans make a comeback — but barely

Jan Gissel couldn’t find work after her franchise failed

— Photo by Daniel Hennessey

Over the last four years, the AARP Bulletin interviewed dozens of older Americans whose lives were upended in the economic downturn — they'd become homeless, jobless or faced foreclosure. We recently revisited some of them to learn where they are now, and found that many continue to struggle financially.

See also: Retired? Laid Off? Government's got answers a click away.

In the latest Bulletin story, "Surviving Recession," we tell how three have fared. Here are the stories of seven more.

Jan Gissel, 65, Orange County, Calif.

  • Trying hard to un-retire
  • Former tech firm owner banks on a career in social networking

The recession toppled Jan Gissel's fledgling technology business and, in the process, nearly emptied her retirement account. At age 63, she slid into retirement, warily and reluctantly. She sought early Social Security benefits and took a reverse mortgage on her townhouse to replace lost income.

Today, at 65, Gissel says she hasn't given up on learning new skills, with the intent to find a job and break out of retirement.

"I've taken a great deal of time to evaluate where I am and what I want to do," she says. "I had this crazy notion that I wanted to find my passion and do something totally different. After all this time, I'm now focused on what is needed [in the marketplace] rather than what I need."

So she's focusing on social media marketing in hopes of providing those services to small-business owners. "I'm in the learning phase," she says. "I'm moving from the print world to the cyber world. I'm hoping to work and get [paid]."

Arleen Decker, 70, Sacramento, Calif.

  • Social Security keeps her afloat
  • Laid-off teacher doubtful she'll ever teach again

Arleen Decker hasn't been able to find a job since she was laid off in 2007. Her career as a teacher had become erratic in the latter years of her working life, as the cash-strapped Golden State began slashing education spending. Now, at 70, Decker fears she won't work again.

"There's no way of finding a teaching job; they're laying off so many teachers," says Decker, whose unemployment benefits ran out last year. "I had to go on Social Security and take early retirement. I'm much worse off but I'm able to limp along. My retirement never will be what it would've been had I not been laid off.

"I would've been able to travel some. Instead, I had to move out of the Tiburon area because it was so expensive and move to an area where I have no family or friends, about 100 miles away in Sacramento," she says. "It's a lifestyle change."

Next: Geoff Hibner, remains hopeful in his job search. >>

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