‘Ability is ageless’: New York City helps retirees get back to work and fill open jobs


In what looks to be a win-win for New York seniors and businesses, New York City said it plans to train older adults for new career paths using a $4.5 million grant that provides new job skills and opportunities for retirees who want to return to work.

The Silver Corps program was launched as a measure to satisfy both the need among companies that are hungry for new workers and older New Yorkers’ need for additional money and vocation.

To qualify for Silver Corps, New York residents must be at least 55 years old, unemployed or underemployed, willing to participate in skills training and a specialized certification program, and volunteer a minimum of 10 hours per week at a nonprofit or city agency.

‘It’s not a pep talk. It’s a fact. Workplaces that are more diversified in age are really enriched and more productive.’

— Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, New York City Department for the Aging

The first Silver Corps cohort has a dozen participants. After participating in workshops on job readiness, financial knowledge and digital literacy, they will perform community-service projects at a local organization or at a city agency.

“We know the demand is there among older New Yorkers who want to continue contributing to their communities and keep working, but too many times they are prevented because of ageist biases people have,” said Department for the Aging commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez. 

“The community-service portion of this program is also a key component. Being active as we get older is good for our bodies and minds, and participants of this program will benefit from exercising them both,” she said.

Cortés-Vázquez said the first wave of participants has had a mix of skill levels and interests, as well as varied professional backgrounds, ranging from accounting and banking to teaching and healthcare. 

“I’m surprised how many people have responded to this. So many are embracing this idea that ability is ageless. They have that sense of acknowledgment and resiliency that they can thrive and succeed,” Cortés-Vázquez said.

New York City last year launched a separate program, called Silver Stars, that works to get retired city employees back into city jobs.

During the volunteer portion of the Silver Corps training, a small stipend is provided to participants, and job-placement support services are available based on a person’s experience and training needs. Some participants will get job-placement assistance immediately, while others may require a year or more or certification and training for a job. The cohort recently began their volunteer positions in local organizations across the city.

In recruiting employers for the new program, the Department for the Aging worked to orient the companies on the issues their employees may face in regard to ageism, while also explaining the lessons that could be learned from the older workers, Cortés-Vázquez said.

“It’s not a pep talk. It’s a fact. Workplaces that are more diversified in age are really enriched and more productive,” Cortés-Vázquez said. “Older people bring their work ethic and values and experience.”

The program is funded by AmeriCorps Seniors. New York City and Rochester, N.Y., were the two municipalities in the country to receive funding to develop and launch this type of pilot for older adults.

“This initiative will enable older adults to leverage their experience, talents and skills in new high-need industries and sectors,” said Lisette Nieves, president of the Fund for the City of New York and a board member of AmeriCorps. 

“Integrating older adults into the workforce is crucial for an equitable and inclusive postpandemic economic recovery. It taps into their wealth of experience and wisdom, fostering intergenerational collaboration that fuels innovation and mentorship. Their contributions drive economic revitalization, boost productivity and create a profound ripple effect beyond the workplace,” Nieves said.

“We are excited to support older adults to use the skills they have and those they will develop to not only serve their community, but also find financial security and new purpose. Upon completion of their service, they will be prepared and supported to re-enter the workforce,” said Atalaya Sergi, director of AmeriCorps Seniors. 


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