Older Bostonians gather in Roxbury to plot the next chapter in their working lives

Mary Gillchrist (left) and Stephanie Thomas at the Dewitt Center in Roxbury. (CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF)

Mattapan resident Theresa Porter spent decades working for the US Postal Service, ascending to a management position in which she oversaw 245 employees in Houston, Texas. But two years after retiring, the 64-year-old Porter said she wants to return to work,

“I would just like a job. Something to do,” Porter said. “I’m tired of sitting at home, doing nothing.”

On Saturday, nearly 50 older workers plotted the next chapter of their working lives in the gym at the Dewitt Center in Roxbury during a city-sponsored workshop to help people age 50 and older find their next job.

“We’re hoping that we can actually get older adults connected with interviews and job opportunities,” said Emily Shea, who leads the city’s Age Strong Commission.

The event was the first of three sessions the city has planned to help older residents land their next job. The next workshop is planned for Oct. 5 and will help participants perfect their resumes, improve job search skills, and prepare for interviews. On Oct. 19, the city is hosting a job fair for older residents. Both events will also be at the Dewitt Center.

Economic factors suggest older people struggle to make ends meet in Massachusetts, event organizers said.

In 2016, researchers at the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging at the University of Massachusetts Boston found 61 percent of people age 65 and above who live alone in Massachusetts don’t earn enough to pay for basic needs. Mississippi was the only state to have a larger number of older, single adults who don’t earn enough to pay their bills, the research said.

A 2016 city report that gathered information from more than 4,000 Boston residents age 50 and older found only 18 percent believed there were adequate employment opportunities for older workers.

Jan Mutchler, who directs the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging at UMass Boston, said older adults are divided among people who were forced to leave jobs before they were ready, people who stopped working and now wish to go back, and people who stay in the workforce.

The city’s workshops, she said, are aimed at helping older adults identify the skills they need to participate in the workforce and find training and education opportunities so they are qualified for available positions.

“Inevitably there are people who encounter a mismatch between what they have to offer and what employers are looking for,” Mutchler said. “How can we promote later life work by making sure people have the skills and retraining opportunities that they need?”

Josephine Willie, 69, of Hyde Park, said she retired in 2017 from her job as a certified nursing assistant at Boston Medical Center, but is now looking for a part-time job to help herself and contribute to the community.

“Sometimes I’m lonely,” she said. “I can help others in the community.”

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.

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