Jones woman one of many older people returning to work force

GRAY — Louella Solomon didn’t expect to be working into her 70s.

A decade ago after she retired from a career as a nursing assistant in Detroit, she figured her days of earning paychecks were done.

But then after her husband died in 2005, the Haddock native moved back home to Jones County and found she needed money to make ends meet.

“The cost of living was more than it was in Detroit,” Solomon, 71, said recently.

A few years ago, through a national nonprofit, job-training organization called Experience Works, Solomon landed part-time work at the Jones County Adult Learning Center. For about 20 hours a week, she helps people from all age groups as they try to earn their GEDs.

Solomon, who has been recognized as Georgia’s Experience Works champion for her efforts, said of her work, “When students here ask me a question, I feel good when I’m able to answer it.”

Solomon isn’t alone in America’s aging workplace.

The Pew Research Center reported last week that, according to government estimates, upward of 90 percent of the growth in the U.S. work force will, until at least 2016, “be among workers ages 55 and older.”

While the majority of retirement-age workers in the survey said they work because they want to, 17 percent said they need the money. And 27 percent reported being “motivated by a mix of desire and need.”

The Pew Research survey also noted that “nearly four-in-10 adults who are working past the median retirement age of 62 say they have delayed their retirement because of the recession.”

Solomon said she will keep working “as long as my health will allow me to.”

Her supervisor at the Jones County center, adult-education instructor Evelyn Hill, said that as many as a third of the students they cater to are 55 and older. Some are trying to enhance their résumés with GEDs and others, including one graduate who was 72, are there “for self-gratification,” Hill said.

Hill said Solomon has been more than a helping hand.

“She came in initially because it would give her extra income, but now she has just grown to love it, and the students love her,” Hill said. “She talks to the younger ones about being committed. And the older ones see her as a role model, that you can retire and go back to work.”

Solomon says her years of experience have taught her a lot about interacting with others, especially when it comes to working with the younger crowd.

“Some will listen,” she said, “some won’t.”

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.