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Vita Needle factory embraces age-friendly policies

Stainless steel needles made by company primarily composed of senior citizens.

Assembled and checked steel tubing is ready for shipping. A thriving business, the Vita Needle company is on track to bring in $11 million in gross sales this year. — Photo by: Sandy Hooper/Aurora Select

Intergenerational learning

Working at Vita is also a learning process for the not-so-old employees. Robert Kurkjian, 20, has been on the factory floor for four years while he attends community college. He used to think old people were all the same, but now he claims that it would be impossible to tell whether some of his coworkers are older unless you see them. Says Kurkjian: "I never expected to be friends with them, but I am.

"They treat me almost like a grandchild. It makes me happy that when I get older, I will be able to live the way I do now and not have to change." Kurkjian enjoys one coworker in particular: "This guy is 76 and parties more than I do! "

It's not like Rosa Finnegan just calls it a day after work, either. Every Friday night, the soon-to-be centenarian goes out to dinner with two coworkers. "I love that there are a lot of older, retired people like me here. We all have some aches and pains," she acknowledges.

She hopes to continue hiking up, then down, the formidable 19 steps it takes to get to the factory floor — what Fred Hartman calls "making use of our health program" — so she can celebrate her 100th birthday next February, on the job, surrounded by friends. In the meantime, even waiting for Saturday and Sunday to end can seem like an eternity. "I miss not coming to work on weekends," says Finnegan. "By Monday I am dying to get back!"

Sally Abrahms writes on aging and boomers for national magazines, newspapers and websites. She is based in Boston.

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