Nearly Half of Firms Asked Are Hiring Retirees : Business: Many companies are willing to hire older persons for everything from clerical to management positions.


Retirement disappointed 67-year-old Mary Hiznay.

So four years after she retired as a clerk with the Michigan state unemployment office, she hired on with Kelly Services Inc. and has been working as part-time temporary help for the past year.

“After a while I got tired of going visiting, going shopping, going here, going there. I decided I gotta get outa there,” said Hiznay, processing telephone orders at Honeybaked Foods Inc. in Troy.

“It really boosts my morale up. I’m such a busy person, anyone who wants to see me has to make an appointment.”


Hiznay isn’t alone. A study released late last year shows there are plenty of companies willing to hire retirees for everything from clerical to management positions; however, the companies don’t hire many of them.

The study was conducted by two Michigan professors for the American Assn. of Retired Persons. It found that 46% of the 1,000 private companies surveyed hire people over 50 who have retired from other jobs, many in permanent, full-time positions. But 63% of the companies that employed retirees had fewer than 10 on the payroll.

Researchers expected to find only about 20% of private companies hiring retirees--and even then only on a temporary, part-time basis.

“Conventional thinking is that when you’re 60, 62, 65 you retire, then you play and you die. It’s not happening any longer,” said Joan Kelly, manager of AARP’s business partnerships program.


“People who are 60 today don’t look like 60 a couple decades ago. They’re healthy. They like to work. They are a very good resource and employers have caught on to this.”

Alex Allwine, president of Precise Metal Products in Phoenix, has four retirees, ages 67 to 72, in his work force of 110. Two are skilled laborers working in manufacturing, the third a supervisor and the fourth an engineer.

“The reason we hire them is because you don’t have to train them. They already have the skills and the knowledge and the experience,” Allwine said.

Compared with some younger workers, Allwine said, retirees have “a little more drive, more ambition, more ingenuity. It was ingrained in them. The people we’re talking about went through the Depression and they don’t take too much for granted.”

The study for AARP was conducted by Barbara Hirshorn of Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology and Denise Hoyer of Eastern Michigan University’s College of Business. It used mail and telephone surveys in late 1991 to contact private companies across the country with 20 or more employees.

“Companies have pared down so fast and completely, they have divested themselves of some of the human resource skills they need. They look at retirees as a very nice source of skilled labor,” Hirshorn said.

Kelly Services Inc., the nation’s largest temporary staffing company, recruits older workers for its Encore program. Of the 550,000 people who work for Kelly Services, about 10% are over 55. Many have found retirement boring or expensive and want the social interchange and extra cash a job can bring, Kelly officials say.

“Companies are going to have to look to the more mature worker. If they don’t, they’re not going to have workers to fill their needs,” said Charlotte Schwartz, vice president of Kelly Services Encore Program.


Critics contend that although more companies may be hiring older workers, they are giving them menial jobs.

“The problem is not enough jobs are available for people who want them. There is an innate sense that the older should move along and let in the younger, who have families to support and need their chance,” said Boston Globe columnist Juliet Brudney, author of “Forced Out.”

“People who come back settle for very little in terms of where they were when they got out. Most of the jobs I know of . . . are routine clerical jobs, or food service, or bagging in a supermarket,” Brudney said.

Hirshorn and Hoyer acknowledge that many companies employ retirees in clerical and lower-end jobs. Days Inn motel chain and McDonald’s restaurants are known for hiring senior citizens to work the front desk or serve hamburgers. However, the researchers also note how many companies hire older workers in management, professional and technical jobs.

Of the companies surveyed that hire retirees, 36% had retirees in management positions, 40% had some retirees in professional positions and 28% employed some older workers in technical positions.