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Work


Click on the headline to read the full article.

04.02.13

 Think strategically

06.09.11

 Computer repair

06.09.11

 Computer repair

 

He helps seniors conquer computers


By Alicia M. Colombo BillThompson has made it his mission to help older adults overcome the all-too-common technophobia that can prevent them from taking advantage of the gadgets that have become all-pervasive. The biggest obstacle is fear of failure, which, he says, age-appropriate training can help overcome.

“Seniors are often made to feel like they’re no longer viable,” says Thompson, a certified International Computer Driving License (ICDL) instructor and software trainer in Philadelphia. “All people with grey hair are not senile, nor are they dumb. It’s the way the information is presented to the audience that impedes – or enhances – learning,” he says.


Twenty years ago, when his mother took a computer class, he looked at what she was being taught in dismay. “It wasn’t even the basics. The information was presented with jargon and an attitude that seniors aren’t intelligent. It’s arrogant to think they don’t know anything, just because they’re not familiar with the computer world,” says Thompson. This experience infuriated him, and he became determined to develop a better way. 

Soon afterwards Thompson helped start the computer lab at Juniata Park Older Adult Center in Northeast Philadelphia. It’s still going strong after 20 years. Students now bring their own laptops, iPads and smart phones to class. The class now is learning to use Windows 8 and PowerPoint. “The ultimate goal is for them to create a digital life story, so they can leave a legacy for their grandchildren,” he says. 

Many of Thompson’s students use the internet to look up medical information, shop, buy airline tickets and to stay connected. Google Maps is a favorite app and website among his students, he says. “Don’t think seniors only want to learn about illness. They have the same curiosity about faraway places,” he says.

One of his students, Ruthina Price, 58, had previous computer experience, but wanted to enhance her skills. After three years of instruction, she’s become an Excel pro and uses spreadsheets to help manage expenses and purchases for her catering business. Her mother, 73-year-old Ruthina Allen, is also a student. “I didn’t know anything before I came to this class,” Allen says. “When I get frustrated, he won’t let me go. He keeps on me until I learn it.” 
  
 Patience is key
          In Thompson’s view, teaching computers to seniors is no different from teaching a new skill to a younger person. “Imagine if you bring a tech-savvy young person into the Dutch country and tell them to go to the barn and milk a cow to make breakfast. They’ll be afraid, and they won’t know what to do at first,” he says. “But if you instruct them properly, step-by-step, they will eventually learn. They might not get milk that day, but eventually they will.” 

At 62, Thompson is proud to be a senior. “According to some, I have been a senior since age 55. I see older adults as my future. When I reach their age, I want to be treated as I treat them, as champions. Don’t treat me like a kid with grey hair,” he says.
          The learning process is the same for everyone. “You start out by getting their attention and respect. I use my understanding and skill with interpersonal relationships to create the environment needed to initiate the learning process. Then you find out what they know and teach them what they don’t. You have to find something that motivates them. It’s not as much about what has been presented, as it is how it is presented,” says Thompson. Instead of using academic jargon he uses examples that everyone can relate to. 

“I can explain how to use nested functions in Excel, as easily as I can present Windows basics. When I am introducing senior students to Windows menus, I will explain it this way: ‘When you go into a restaurant, they give you a menu. The computer has menus, too. The mouse has a left and a right button. You right click on the mouse to ask for a menu, and you left click to make your choice from the menu.’” 

Waxing philosophical, Thompson says, “Anything that is created will grow old. On the other hand, aging is a deliberate time-honored process that adds development, value and is treasured and sought after. Aging improves good wine, prime meat and great cheese by adding value to the dining experience. Old cars are junked, while classic cars are cherished. My students have sought and found the fulfillment by choosing life’s experience of aging. You will not be any younger than you are today. Do you want to age or grow old? As humans the choice is ours to make.” 

For more information about Thompson’s computer classes, you can contact him at 610-453-7534 or by e-mail at ThompsonConsulting2000@hotmail.com. For information about senior centers throughout Philadelphia that offer computer classes, call the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040 or go to www.pcaCares.org.

Photo of Bill Thompson by Alicia M. Colombo
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Older workers are empowered to succeed


By Marcia Z. Siegal At age 74, Lena Hicks, has overcome two mild strokes and is once again proudly and gainfully employed. In fact, she is doubly invested in the working world these days.

As the job developer for the City of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Commission on Aging (MCOA), she helps to research, solicit and advocate for job opportunities for other older job seekers. 

Hicks credits the Title V federal Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) for this satisfying new chapter in her career, and she recommends SCSEP to seniors who, like her, “are not ready to give up.” 


After her second stroke, Hicks left job as a customer service representative for Health Partners of Philadelphia (now known as Health Partners Plans) due to memory loss. Doctors told her that she would never work again. “But I didn’t like sitting in the house,” she remembers. “I wanted to go back to work. I wanted to get my life back. In addition, I needed the income.”  

Determined to work again, she enrolled in the SCSEP community service and work-based training program through MCOA. She was assigned as an aide in the MCOA Job Development Office, assisting clients in their search for employment.

As a result of her outstanding performance in that SCSEP position, Hicks was hired as the MCOA’s job developer when the position became available six months later, says Patricia West, SCSEP project director. While her memory is still not where she would like for it to be, she has “got her life back,” Hicks says.

 Her current position is a challenging one, says Hicks, who develops job leads for both SCSEP participants and other older adults served in MCOOA’s Job Development Office. “So many of the job openings are only posted online these days. Employers don’t call in job orders to us as often as they once did.”

Still, that doesn’t deter her outreach efforts; she contacts prospective employers by phone and in person to identify customer service, skilled labor, clerical, retail, maintenance, and other positions frequently sought by those who come to MCOA. Hicks also combs through key job websites daily for job openings, which she posts on the jobs board and in jobs leads binders for job seekers who do not yet have computer skills.

Hicks say she encourages other job seekers by telling her story. “I let them know you don’t give up and that you’ve got to feel good about yourself,” she emphasizes. “Go with the mindset that you will get a job – not that ‘They won’t hire me because I’m too old.’”

Like Hicks, Lilia Castaneda, 73, a Colombian immigrant, found a way forward through SCSEP at a particularly difficult time in her life. Following the death of her husband, Ramino, in 2008, with her three children grown, she decided to re-enter the work force. Castaneda applied to the SCSEP program administered by the Philadelphia office of the Asociación Nacional Pro Personas Mayores (ANPPM), the National Association for the Hispanic Elderly.

 Her last job experience had been decades before when she was an office worker for Cardone Industries, a local auto parts manufacturer. She left that job after 10 years to raise her children.  Like Hicks, she has also dealt with her share of health problems over the years. Eleven years ago, she survived a battle with kidney cancer. 

 Agencies administering the SCSEP work with a number of host sites to provide participants with community service work experience and training. Castaneda was assigned as an administrative assistant at Casa del Carmen, a Catholic Social Services agency that primarily serves Philadelphia’s Latino community. After three years working in this SCSEP position, she was offered a permanent job as a document specialist by Casa del Carmen. She now helps clients request birth, death or marriage certificates from Puerto Rico, documentation that can also aid with applications for benefits and entitlements.

“To me, working is a gift,” she says. “When I was in mourning for my husband, it was therapeutic to come in every day and be able to help others and to be with others.” Castaneda is grateful for the opportunities SCSEP provided her. “Programs like this lift the spirits of those in our age group, particularly knowing how we are recognized for the good work we continue to do,” she says. “It brings gladness to my heart.”
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Agencies help job seekers


Offer opportunities, resources for older workers
The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is a community service and work-based training program for low-income unemployed individuals 55 and older. SCSEP is funded by the Older Americans Act and is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The program provides a small stipend for an average of 20 hours a week of training for participants to enhance their skills or to prepare them to re-enter the workforce.

They are placed in a wide variety of community service activities at nonprofit and public facilities. SCSEP is intended to serve as a bridge to unsubsidized employment.

Job search assistance and placement is available to individuals looking to re-enter the public or private sector.

 In Philadelphia, SCSEP programs are administered by five organizations:

Asociación Nacional Pro Personas Mayores/Project Ayuda
 3150 North  Mascher St., 19133
 215-426-1212

Career Solutions for 55+/JEVS Human Services at Pennsylvania  CareerLink
 990 Spring Garden St., 19123
 215-560-5465, ext. 265
 

The Mayor’s Commission on Aging
  100 South Broad Street, 4th Floor, 19110
 215-686-8450

National Asian Pacific Center on Aging
 6705 Old York Rd., 19126
 215-224-0358

National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc.
 1415 N. Broad St., Suite 221, 19122
 215-765-4030

Information on SCSEP and other employment services for older adults is also available at www.pcaCares.org or by calling the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging Helpline at 215-765-9040.
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She created a place to call home


By Rita Charleston
If necessity is the mother of invention, add a strong feeling of community involvement to the mix and you might come up with someone like Mary Ellen Graham.

Graham, an academic, educator, writer and the mother of six, is the force behind the creation of My Place Germantown, a fully renovated, safe, spacious house that twelve previously homeless men now call home. 

The seed probably was planted in 1991 when Graham joined St Vincent DePaul Church, which is famous for its outreach programs and its social justice focus. Along the way, she was seriously involved in several community projects, even traveling to Africa at one point where she was offered a unique, fulltime position at a university in Tanzania.         


"When I returned home, I realized I couldn’t devote the time necessary to accept such a position, and that there was a lot I could do here. So I began mainly by working for the Catholic Archdiocese’s Mercy Hospice, the oldest shelter and recovery house for women in the city of Philadelphia.”    

At the same time, Graham, who has a master’s degree in English, continued teaching. And then it happened. In 2007 she discovered there was a large number of men in Germantown between the ages of 40 and 55 who had very few housing options.   

"Many were unemployed and most faced serious disabilities, such as physical or mental health issues, and long-term substance abuse issues,” Graham explained. “They represented a whole spectrum of disabilities and my sense of justice was deeply offended by the fact that they were being neglected. While there were shelters for women, for the most part these men were being perceived almost as lepers, people who a friend of mine called ‘the throwaway people.’”

For Graham, that was the last straw. She began doing an enormous amount of research, talking to everyone and anyone who would talk to her, meeting everyone she could, visiting many facilities here, even traveling to Canada to see what, if anything, that country was doing with its “throwaway people.” 

Finding that no one wanted to come out to Germantown to create a home for the hard-to-place, Graham decided to do it on her own. It took three years, but finally, in November, 2010, My Place Germantown opened at 209 E. Price St. Located on one acre of land, it’s hard to miss the building, brightly painted in raspberry and orange.

My Place Germantown boasts 12 efficiency apartments, complete with kitchenettes, full closets, and private baths. Two units are wheelchair accessible, and a third is accessible for the hearing and/or visually impaired. “The men, who can stay as long as they like, are chosen on the basis of need, coming from living on the streets, an emergency shelter, or transitional housing,” Graham says. “They must have had a recent episode of homelessness and/or be certifiably disabled.”

Neighborhood resources include a health clinic, legal services, a food pantry, a learning lab literacy program and more. Professional support services, such as a case manger and resident advocates to provide 24/7 support are also available. 

For her work, Graham received an Access Achievement Award from the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities of the City of Philadelphia in 2011. She was honored for “outstanding commitment to increase access for people with disabilities through the removal of physical and attitudinal barriers” for creating My Place Germantown, Philadelphia’s first permanent supportive housing for homeless men with mental and physical disabilities. 

"In the beginning, the major issue I had to face was hearing the word ‘no’ from so many people I approached. Now that we’re up and running, the major issue I face today is how to keep the house going,” she says. 

"That is a major job for me, but when I look around at what we’ve accomplished, I think it’s wonderful. The men here have made remarkable progress in recapturing their productive lives. Today, they seem happy and healthy, and I am thrilled with the progress we’ve made.” 

My Place Germantown is the only permanent housing for men with special needs in the city. To make donations or to volunteer, please call 215-763-6387. “Many were unemployed and most faced serious disabilities, such as physical or mental health issues, and long-term substance abuse issues,” Graham explained. “They represented a whole spectrum of disabilities and my sense of justice was deeply offended by the fact that they were being neglected. While there were shelters for women, for the most part these men were being perceived almost as lepers, people who a friend of mine called ‘the throwaway people.’”

For Graham, that was the last straw. She began doing an enormous amount of research, talking to everyone and anyone who would talk to her, meeting everyone she could, visiting many facilities here, even traveling to Canada to see what, if anything, that country was doing with its “throwaway people.” 

Finding that no one wanted to come out to Germantown to create a home for the hard-to-place, Graham decided to do it on her own. It took three years, but finally, in November, 2010, My Place Germantown opened at 209 E. Price St. Located on one acre of land, it’s hard to miss the building, brightly painted in raspberry and orange.

My Place Germantown boasts 12 efficiency apartments, complete with kitchenettes, full closets, and private baths. Two units are wheelchair accessible, and a third is accessible for the hearing and/or visually impaired. “The men, who can stay as long as they like, are chosen on the basis of need, coming from living on the streets, an emergency shelter, or transitional housing,” Graham says. “They must have had a recent episode of homelessness and/or be certifiably disabled.”

Neighborhood resources include a health clinic, legal services, a food pantry, a learning lab literacy program and more. Professional support services, such as a case manger and resident advocates to provide 24/7 support are also available. 

For her work, Graham received an Access Achievement Award from the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities of the City of Philadelphia in 2011. She was honored for “outstanding commitment to increase access for people with disabilities through the removal of physical and attitudinal barriers” for creating My Place Germantown, Philadelphia’s first permanent supportive housing for homeless men with mental and physical disabilities. 

"In the beginning, the major issue I had to face was hearing the word ‘no’ from so many people I approached. Now that we’re up and running, the major issue I face today is how to keep the house going,” she says. 

"That is a major job for me, but when I look around at what we’ve accomplished, I think it’s wonderful. The men here have made remarkable progress in recapturing their productive lives. Today, they seem happy and healthy, and I am thrilled with the progress we’ve made.” 

My Place Germantown is the only permanent housing for men with special needs in the city. To make donations or to volunteer, please call 215-763-6387.

Caption: My Place founder Mary Ellen Graham (center) with residents Amos Shattuck (left) and Michael Marey. (Photo by Raymond W. Holman, Jr.)

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Mother's need led her to a new career


By Alicia M. Colombo
When Im Ja P. Choi’s 85-year-old mother underwent surgery for stomach cancer, a language barrier nearly stymied any chance of a recovery. Choi’s mother was hospitalized periodically for seven months and weighed just 62 pounds when she was finally released from the hospital.

“Her condition required 24-hour care; yet, I could not send her to nursing home,” says Choi.

“Mom didn’t speak any English and only ate traditional Korean food.  If she couldn’t communicate with the staff and wouldn’t eat, how can she last in a nursing home?” says Choi.
She had no choice but to bring her mother home to live with her, where she could receive the care she needed. “She was happy to help me raise my children for 20 years, while I went to school and furthered my career. It was my turn,” says Choi. 
 

Her search for a Korean-speaking home health aide proved difficult. After seven months, Choi finally located a bilingual home health aide who relocated from Connecticut. “Soon after, many of my friends and church members started asking me where I found a Korean-speaking aide. I realized there was a real unmet need in the community,” says Choi.

She had been a successful real estate agent for more than 20 years and received her Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania, but always wanted to do more with her career.

“I worked my way up to Vice President of a local finance company, but I knew that was not my final goal. I had an innate passion to do more for the community and for women’s and civic issues. Women were born with the nature to take care of others and usually bear the responsibility of caregiving,” says Choi, who came to America right after her college graduation in 1971.

In 2004, she founded Korean American Senior Services of Pennsylvania to provide specialized home health aide training to Korean speakers. In the first year, 42 Korean-speaking health aides were trained to serve 36 clients. 
 She soon realized there was a greater need for this service in the general Asian population, and within a year, the agency expanded its reach and was re-named Penn Asian Senior Services (PASSi). PASSi now serves clients in nine Asian languages, including Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hindi and Guajarati. More than 440 home health aides have received training from PASSi since 2005

“We now have almost 400 clients, a truly diverse clientele from 14 different ethnicities, including African-American, Russian and Hispanic,” says Choi.

“My mom lived eight years after her cancer surgery, when no one believed she’d live three months. My own personal homecare experience with mom helped my agency to grow. I understand the need for caregivers first-hand,” says Choi, who is executive director of PASSi in Jenkintown.

Choi turned 65 in July and says, “There’s still too much to do to even think about retirement. People don’t do this to make a lot of money; they do it to help people and the need is greater than ever.”

Her work is ever-growing, as PASSi is in the midst of its largest expansion to date. The organization recently purchased the former Ivy Leaf School at 6926 Old York Road in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. Renovations are underway to create office space and an onsite adult day center. PASSi offices will move to the new location in the fall and the adult day center is expected to open in early 2014. Future plans include a full-service senior community center for the Asian community.

“Almost 80% of our current clientele lives in Philadelphia. Our new location will be easily accessible to bus routes on Broad Street and Old York Road,” says Choi.

For information about PASSi’s home care or training services, call 215-572-1234 or go to www.passi.us.
 
Photo of Im Ja P. Choi by Alicia Colombo
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Help for hopeful entrepreneurs


By Linda L. Riley
Thinking of starting a business? Maybe you have a great idea, a new product or service; or you’ve recently retired or been laid off and are ready to go out on your own. There are many free resources to help you.

According to the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) of Pennsylvania, research and planning are two of the keys to success.  SBDC offers many resources, including an online Tutorial for Starting a Business The U.S. Small Business Administration also offers resources, including a tutorial tailored to encore entrepreneurs. 

Personalized help is available from volunteers with SCORE: Mentors to America’s Small Businesses, which has 364 chapters nationwide, funded primarily by the federal Small Business Administration (SBA). To find a chapter convenient to you, go to the website and enter your zip code.


Steve Lember, a retired ad agency executive who works through the Jenkintown office of SCORE, says that in the first meeting with a client, the counselor helps determine their needs, Lember says. “Successive meetings may be with someone who has the skill set you require. I primarily focus on marketing issues.”

“We’re a sounding board,” he says. He may critique a brochure, suggest some ways to get publicity, or offer guidance on what makes a website effective – or not.  “We won’t build the website, but we will help them through the process,” he says. “We want the client to do as much of the work as possible.”

Strong plan is key
The basic elements of a business plan include identifying your potential customers and your competition; developing a strategy for marketing your business; and determining what will be the cost of producing, providing and marketing your product or service.

If your business will have a physical site, as opposed to an online presence, SCORE’s website advises that you “analyze that location for traffic, parking, customer and delivery access.” Also critical is determining if your intended use of the property is permitted under the zoning code.  Even operating a business out of your home is subject to regulations; giving music lessons may be permitted, while operating a day care service may not; and business privilege tax does apply.

Be sure to check specifics; for example, in a location designated as a manufacturing and industrial district, there may be restrictions on what sort of products are permitted. Tanning, candle making and fertilizer manufacture are among the activities prohibited by one local town, for example.

Municipalities also regulate the size, type and location of signs that are permitted, and the fee for erecting them. There are fees for various activities, including installation of alarm systems; licensing and inspection of food-handling establishments; and for transient vendors. Depending on the use, there may be parking requirements.
            “Always talk to the zoning officer and get a copy of the ordinance,” SCORE advises.

Call in the pros
There are many financial and legal issues to consider when starting a business. These include business privilege and other taxes and fees, including sales tax, state and federal taxes; licenses required; and copyright or patent protections for your business name and product.

Among the most critical decisions for entrepreneurs is what structure to set up for their business. Options include sole proprietorship; partnership; corporation; and limited liability corporation. Each has both advantages and disadvantages, including the cost and complexity of setting up the business; differing forms of taxation; personal liability of the business owner; and differing federal and state regulations.

If you will have people working for you, determining whether they will be independent contractors or employees will govern whether you need to pay worker’s compensation, and what form of tax deduction and reporting will be required. For all of these matters, seeking professional help is advised, says Lember. “We always suggest the need for a lawyer, an accountant and a general insurance agent.”
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Think strategically


By Linda L. Riley
Business cards, brochures and websites are all important, but without a sound marketing plan, they won’t produce sales. Retired ad agency executive Steve Lember volunteers with SCORE: Mentors to America’s Small Businesses  to help clients think through what makes their business stand out, and works with them on developing a marketing strategy that will capitalize on those qualities. 

He says that in the 10 years he’s been volunteering with SCORE, he’s worked with 1,062 clients. SCORE volunteers have expertise in various areas, and will be matched with clients based on their needs.

As an example, he cited a husband and wife he worked with who had purchased a franchise for providing in-home care to senior citizens. They received some startup support, including training and marketing materials; but they needed a localized marketing strategy.

“When they first came in they had no idea what their goals were, or what their budget was,” says Lember.  He advised them to evaluate their costs versus revenues, research the competition, and set goals for a year in the future, which helped them focus, he says.

“We gave them some direction on targeting referral sources – doctors’ offices, hospital social workers,” Lember says. Among the strategies he suggested was to provide articles to local newspapers on how to care for an elderly parent, positioning their agency as the experts on the subject. Two years later, “They’re still in business, and growing.”

Another client who came to SCORE wanted to start a catering business serving child care centers.


She had a potential client, and had received a grant from the Women’s Opportunity Resource Center, another SBA-funded nonprofit. She had some experience in food service, and planned to rent time in a commercial kitchen.

“She wanted to know how to go into business,” Lember says. “We had her develop a business plan. She had to get a handle on her costs. Then we worked on a marketing strategy for focusing on mid-sized to large child care centers. We talked about filing a fictitious name and setting up a corporate veil to separate personal from business finances.”

She was also referred to another SCORE client who was developing a business offering bookkeeping services to small businesses.

But Lember cautions that not every idea is a good idea. “In a lot of cases there are people who shouldn’t be in business, and we’re saving them time and money when they should be doing something else.” An example was an entry-level copywriter who wanted to start a freelance business, but had no experience and no credentials. “We suggested he focus on getting a job at an ad agency and building his skills,” Lember says.

Another client wanted to open a recording studio, which would have required a steep start-up cost for purchasing expensive equipment. “We suggested he rent time from an existing studio – or look for a studio that would pay him a commission for bringing in clients,” Lember says.
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Government provides startup support


By Linda L. Riley

Both the federal and state governments have programs and resources to provide small businesses with startup support, technical assistance and help finding financing.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a district office for the Philadelphia area, and helps fund several other organizations. Each offers a different range of services and resources, which can include counseling; online or local workshops; loans; technical assistance; and networking opportunities.


Among them are SCORE; the Temple University Small Business Development Center; Wharton School Small Business Development Center; Women’s Business Development Center; and Philadelphia U.S. Export Assistance Center. Two of the local SBA Centers, the Wharton School and Temple University, are also Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers.

To get started, visit www.sba.gov and click on “Local Assistance,” then enter your zip code. This will bring up a list of the local SBA-funded organizations, contact information and websites for each, including the SBA’s Philadelphia district office which is located in King of Prussia. It’s a good idea to browse through the descriptions of each organization to determine which best suits your needs.

The PA Department of Community & Economic Development’s Center for Entrepreneurial Assistance (800-280-3801 or 717-783-5700) can help connect entrepreneurs with resources and regulations, including business licenses and permits; public financing programs; planning; certification procedures; and more.

Online assistance with some of the legal and regulatory aspects of doing business in Pennsylvania is available at www.PAOpenForBusiness.com. An “Online Business Registration Interview” walks users through the process of registering a business, and, according to the website, is designed to help users who are unfamiliar with Pennsylvania taxes, services, and business registration requirements.

Additional resources:
PA Department of State Customer Service, 717-787-1057
Information about business structure, fictitious name registration, domestic and foreign profit and nonprofit corporations.

PA Dept. of Revenue Taxpayer Service and Information Center, 717-787-1064
Information about taxation of the different forms of business (corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, limited liability corporation); employer withholding; sales tax; and other tax issues.

Internal Revenue Service, 800-829-1040
Federal tax information. 
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Encore career: capturing life stories


By Marcia Z. Siegal

 Marianne Waller discovered her personal passion in her 60s, when restructuring of the ad agency where she was creative director prompted her to rethink her career.

 “I was considering becoming a life coach and was doing some research about career changes online. In the process, I came across a website about personal historians. There happened to be a conference of personal historians taking place in Denver right after the life coaching conference I was planning to attend there,” she remembers.

 That Association of Personal Historians (APH) conference proved pivotal.  “Everybody there loved what they were doing,” she says. “A lot of people had made it a second career. I wanted to be one of them."

Encore career
 Seeing life through others’ eyes in her “encore career” as a personal historian has been a tremendously rewarding experience, says this Center City resident.

 “There is no such thing as a boring life,” according to Waller; although many of her subjects demur that their lives are indeed boring when first questioned. “There are the lessons learned, the way people define themselves, the people they’ve interacted with during their lifetime…”

Waller’s subjects so far have ranged from 70 to 90+ years of age. Most of her business has come from Baby Boomers “who realize that their parents are not going to live forever and who want to capture their stories,” she says.


The APH bills itself as “The Life Story People — Saving Lives ... one story at a time.” According to its website, members help other people create personal and family histories, heritage cookbooks, community histories, corporate and organizational histories, legacy letters and ethical wills. This may take the form of a book, documentary, video, website, scrapbook or photo collage — even a song or quilt.

 Waller, who now serves as APH conference chair, specializes in books. Her first undertaking was a pro bono personal history of a friend's 90-year-old father. New clients have come through word-of-mouth and the APH website.  

Collaborative process

 One particularly complex project was a transcontinental endeavor. A family wanted a book about their grandmother’s life and family; she was born and raised in Rajasthan, India, and spent her adult life in Japan. Waller gave the granddaughters interview questionnaires; they translated the questions and went to Japan to interview their grandmother. They then translated the answers back into English. A book-signing was held in Japan and attended by many family members and friends, including children, in-laws, grandchildren, and business associates of the woman’s late husband. Waller originally planned to be there, but was unable to go, so she participated through Skype (an internet application that enables text, video and voice calls to other Skype users). 

 Waller typically begins the interview process by sending her subject a detailed questionnaire.  “I have an extensive biography form,” she says. “Usually there will be things that pique my interest, which I can tease out during the interviews to start the conversation flowing, she says. “I think curiosity is the most important characteristic of a personal historian. You really have to care about, and want to know about your subjects.”

 For every hour of interview done with the primary subject, Waller estimates that typically works another 100 hours for all the steps necessary to produce a bound book. This includes the time spent transcribing the interview tape, doing background research, and interviewing the subject’s family members and friends as needed to round out the picture.  Once the text is final, Waller works with a designer on layout, photos and captions to create the book. 

 Some clients prefer coffee table books, others a more modest paperback, and others variations in between. The finished product is usually presented to family and friends at a special event, such as a birthday party or book-signing.

 While a linear look at a person’s life is important, “I find that most lives have big themes that drive the narrative. For some, it may be work; for others politics, for example. One woman I’ve written about has pursued peace movements in one way or another all her life.”

 Waller says her own life has been enriched immeasurably by writing these stories and that she looks forward to others yet unknown. “My life is like a novel,” she reflects. “I can’t wait to see the next chapter.”

 For more information about the Association of Personal Historians or to find a personal historian, visit www.personalhistorians.org.
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Job hunting? Here's help


By Linda L. Riley
help-wanted-sm.JPG

Older workers generally have greater job security than do younger ones, but once unemployed, they have a harder time finding a new job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The current U.S. unemployment rate is 8%; that has traditionally been much lower among older workers , but the gap is closing. A study done by the Government Accountability Office found a dramatic increase in the unemployment rate between 2007, when it was 3.1% among those 55+ - and 2011, when it was 6%.

Ironically, the study found that some of the difficulties older workers face when job hunting are due to their experience. While experience can be an asset, it can also limit the number of available jobs and put prospective employees in a higher salary bracket, making them less attractive to an employer.

For others, it may be that their skills have not kept up with the needs of an increasingly technological job. At the same time, older workers whose savings have been diminished by the recession may be staying in the work force longer - or going back to work.

“Many older people are back in the job market either because they want to work or they have to,” says Bruce Bornmann, chairperson of Philadelphia Corporation for Aging's (PCA) Mature Workers Task Force, a coalition of non-profit and public organizations which coordinate employment and training services for mature workers in Philadelphia.


Bornmann is also PCA's program manager in charge of overseeing subcontracts with two programs: JEVS Career Solutions for  55+ and the Mayor's Commission on Services to Aging (MCOA), both of which provide assistance to older job seekers.  

JEVS Career Solutions for 55+
The JEVS Career Solutions for 55+ program (215-560-5465, ext. 268) offers an orientation  every Monday on such topics as revising resumes, reviewing qualifications and competing for jobs.

Also available are workshops that offer instruction on preparing for an interview, developing a professionally written resume and practicing mock interviews. Participants also have access to the Computer Resource Center; job leads; instruction on using the Internet in a job search; and access to websites such as KeyTrain, IT (Information Technology) Academy which offers online courses to improve and document workplace skills.

“The job market is not healthy for people without current work experience and updated technical skills,” says Judy Cherry, coordinator of the Career Solutions for  55+ program.

The Career Solutions for 55+ program, funded by PCA, is located at the North CareerLink office, 990 Spring Garden St. Besides assistance from the Career Solutions staff, you can make use of CareerLink job search resources. To participate, you need only be a Philadelphia resident, age 55 or older.

MCOA's job development office
MCOA’s job development office (215-686-8450) searches for job openings for seniors and will fax resumes of participants to prospective employers. The only requirement is that you be a Philadelphia resident, age 55 or older. For those needing to update their skills, the job development office also provides computer training, which has come to be essential both in searching for jobs and on the job.

For low-income older workers age 55+, MCOA provides employment and job search training through the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Participants are placed in subsidized training employment, part time, up to twenty hours per week, in non-profit and public agencies to acquire valuable skills and work experience.  Individuals eligible for SCSEP must be 55 or older and your household income cannot exceed 125 percent of federal poverty level guidelines (currently a ceiling of $13,963 for a family of one and $18,913 for a family of two).

"Employers look for older workers, because they are dependable and have a strong work ethic, wisdom and loyalty.”” says Pat West, project director for the program. “We assess [your] job skills and previous employment …  and match them to one of our training sites,” West says. SCSEP participants typically train in maintenance, security, clerical or food-related services. In 2007, the federal government instituted a four-year limit for participants to remain in SCSEP.

“Because our goal is to help participants find unsubsidized employment,” West says, “we provide ongoing counseling with their job search and help with developing resumes to be forwarded to prospective employers.”

SAGEWorks
Help for older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender  (LBGT) job seekers is available through SAGEWorks, located at the William Way Community Center. A national program, it recently got underway in Philadelphia.

“Our aim is to assist LBGT people 40 or older improve their skills and find meaningful employment,” says Ed Miller, senior programs coordinator  at William Way Center (215-732-2220).

SAGEWorks offers an orientation several times each month, workshops on creating resumes and mock interviews. Participants also have access to William Way Center’s new Cyber Center lab, where they can enhance their computer skills and access the AARP Foundation’s WorkSearch program.

“A key aspect of our program is networking,” Miller says.  “We are reaching out to the younger members of the LGBT community to be partners in the program.  We need volunteers to conduct workshops on computer skills and other job-related topics.”

Additional resources:

Philadelphia Works, Inc./PA CareerLink (215-557-2625) operates five offices located throughout Philadelphia that offer employment and training services to anyone over age 18, including help from staff members with identifying jobs for which you are qualified, and getting training. 
 
Project Ayuda (215-426-1212) assists Latino seniors with job training and English classes and job placement.

In addition to MCOA, other SCSEPs operate in Philadelphia under national agencies (and the same age and income requirements). These include:
•  Asociacion Nacional Pro Personas Mayores/Project Ayuda (215-426-1212).
• National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (215-224-0358).
• National Caucus and Center on Black Aged (215-765-4030).
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Providers are the heart of Dom Care homes


By Alicia Colombo
A safe home and companionship are among the most basic human needs. For the past 35 years, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s (PCA) Domiciliary, or “Dom” Care program has provided both to thousands of adults who cannot live independently due to physical, emotional or mental impairments.

Through Dom Care, people age 18+ in need of a caring, supportive home are placed with individuals or families throughout the community.

Providers like 75-year-old Dolores Luckey are the heart of the program. Luckey, a retired nurse’s aide, has been a Dom Care provider in her southwest Philadelphia home for 18 years. “This becomes home for people who have no other place to go," she says.


Dom Care providers undergo screening, reference and criminal background checks, and attend free training offered by PCA. Homes are inspected and certified to meet fire, health and safety regulations.

“No special skills are required. You just have to be patient, and like what you’re doing. PCA makes sure both parties are safe. They don’t just take care of the resident, they look out for the provider as well,” said Luckey.

Dom Care consumers get room and board, housekeeping, laundry, assistance with personal hygiene and budgeting, supervision of medication administration, and assistance with medical appointments. In most cases, consumers participate in family meals and activities.

“Dom Care is the only (family) home some of our consumers have ever known,” said Lois Naylor, care manager for PCA’s Dom Care program. “Many of them would be homeless or in a nursing home without this program. The most rewarding part of my job is developing long-term relationships that are beneficial for all involved.”

Providers receive a $954 monthly payment, but Luckey said she values the companionship far more than the monetary compensation. “I love having someone to keep me company. We have movie nights at home with popcorn,” she says.

“This is a unique program at PCA which supports both providers and consumers. It is the only long-term care program here that serves consumers from age 18 and up. Dom Care staff utilizes a team approach to support the entire home. We want to give providers the tools to do their best and make the consumers happy,” said Jean Janik, PCA director of community living options, who oversees the Dom Care program.

Dom Care started in 1977 after the de-institutionalization of psychiatric facilities for people with mental illness or intellectual disabilities. PCA’s Dom Care program currently has 180 providers who care for 190 consumers. “The need for the program is greater than ever. We’re getting referrals from adult day programs, personal care homes and high-risk youth who are aging out of foster care,” said Janik.

For more information about Dom Care, call 215-765-9000, ext. 5365 or visit PCA's website.

Photograph of Dom Care provider Dolores Luckey by Alicia Colombo
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Creativity blossoms in small spaces


By Rita Charleston


watermark-painter.jpg

When people retire, they want to say goodbye to fighting traffic, office politics and planning their life according to a clock.

Seniors who want to keep working may have the same goals. Some are discovering the luxury of working at home, managing their own time to make the most of their talents.

Three, at The Watermark at Logan Square, have designed home “studios” that suit them perfectly.

Good light’ for painting
Meyer Shulick, an 81-year-old widower, has retired as an art teacher, but not as an artist. He has remodeled part of his one-bedroom 13th-floor apartment to accommodate his paints and easels. It faces northeast with large windows that afford just the kind of light an artist needs. He is currently working on a 48-by-32-inch oil painting for his daughter.

Even on a cloudy day I get good light up here, and I even laid down a wooden floor over the existing rug so that I could move things around more easily.”

Much of Shulick’s work has been dedicated to Philadelphia, the city he loves. His painting of “Boathouse Row” recently earned jurors’ recognition for the national 2012 Expressions Calendar, featuring the work of artists selected from 25 Watermark communities nationwide.

Shulick is also a former pilot, but had to give it up because of a stroke; plays classical guitar; and is working on a scale-model of the sailing ship The C.W. Morgan.

“Keep involved and stay active. Keep moving, even if it’s just going for a walk every day. Do something you’ve always loved — especially if you can do it from home,” Shulick advises other seniors.


Theater work in his studio
John Gallagher, 79, a former communication faculty member at Montgomery County Community College, agrees. “Find something you really love and want to be involved in,” he says, “and then keep active.”

In theater production for more than 50 years, Gallagher has worked with, among others, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Basil Rathbone, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. He has done everything from Shakespeare to musical comedy.

He has turned his one-bedroom apartment, which he separated with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, into a multifunctional space. His bed is on one side of the divider, and on the other is his home studio, making room for all the paraphernalia it takes to run the new Irish Heritage Theater of Philadelphia, which has contracted with the Walnut Street Theatre’s Studio 5 for a production of Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come, May 5-20.

“Working at home allows me the flexibility and opportunity to do everything I need and want to do,” says Gallagher.

Internet radio system
Mike Savits, 76, has turned a corner of his efficiency into space for SIRS, the Savits Internet Radio System.

“When it’s finally up and running, it will provide an outlet for the creative talents of many other Watermark seniors,” he says. “It will be a way to share a variety of incredibly interesting life stories of these residents, and be entertaining with humor and great music.“

A former music teacher, university professor, college dean and music director for several school districts, Savits played trumpet, often alongside some distinguished musicians.

“I was often a sideman [a professional musician hired by groups that come to play in the city], when such bandleaders as Harry James or Glenn Miller came to town,” Savits recalls.

“I like getting out of bed, walking over to my computer, turning it on and then working,” says Savits. “I have no traffic worries and no cranky bosses. I do what I want to do, when I want to; and that’s just fine with me.”
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Retiree finds new life with Pilates studio


By Elaine Welles
Pilates.JPG

Scenes of Historic Germantown are on one wall, but the studio, at 5904 Greene St., is squarely in the present, offering an exercise intended to heal and rejuvenate.

Jeff Smith began Pilates in Germantown in 2008 after retiring as a communications and English teacher in the Philadelphia public schools.

Smith saw a business opportunity when the owner of a yoga program (with Pilates component) he was attending decided to close and relocate.

The Germantown business district has changed as old established institutions have moved on, but some businesses remained and some new ones, like Smith's, have developed. Born and raised in Germantown, Smith says, "I don't think I could have started a business any place but here. I'm doing this because I believe in it and I believe in my community."

Smith is not an instructor. His trainer, Heather Sheridan, is certified, and takes over when students arrive.



Clients buy a package of ten 55-minute lessons, Smith explains. Groups may participate; Smith will work out the schedule and pricing -- "for $250, they can come as often as they want in a month. We recommend twice a week." Or, sessions can be spread out over a few months, he adds.

Pilates integrates yoga, traditional stretching forms and relaxation methods. Pilates in Germantown uses "state-of-the art Balanced Body equipment," says Smith, 65. His participants are both men and women, ranging in age from late 20s to 78.

Conditioning, not body building

"Age doesn't matter," he says. "This is not body building training. It's not putting excessive force on the body. We're looking for form of movement and developing muscles through a range of motion."

While participants are not made to go beyond their "comfort zones," Smith says he has seen the difference in his own movements and abilities: "My left shoulder used to be a lot more limited," but he has extended his range of motion through an arm circles exercise.

No one ever hurts him/herself, stresses Smith. "The system is designed to lengthen and strengthen muscle tissue.

Pilates -- an exercise for building "strength, grace and rehabilitative effects" -- is named for Joseph Pilates (1880-1967) who invented the equipment for injury rehabilitation, viewing his method as developing a mind/body connection.

Refined over the years, the exercise regimen is "helpful for spine, shoulder, hip and core conditioning," the Pilates in Germantown website (www.pilatesingermantown.com) explains.

One participant in the Monday evening class came to Pilates in Germantown for fitness, but there have been added benefits, she says. She is more flexible and feels better, generally, and although "I didn't notice any signs of weight loss, other people noticed."

Weight loss is not a goal of Pilates, Smith observes, but clients benefit from a better physique. 
For information: 215-848-3275.

Photo of Jeff Smith in his Germantown Pilates studio by Paolo Nogueras

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Local author's travel to Turkey produces story of power, lust and revenge


By Linda L. Riley
Twenty years ago, Frances Webb traveled to Turkey with an Elderhostel group in order to get a feel for the land, the flora and fauna, and the Roman Empire.  She steeped herself in the surprisingly quirky history of the Roman empire in the fourth century, returned and undertook an intensive study of the history, which included the physiology and sexuality of eunuchs.

Last year, just after her 81st birthday, all that work came to fruition in the form of her first published novel, Innocence and Gold Dust,  which the publisher calls “a timeless story of power and revenge, alive with real history.”

 
The idea for the novel grew from a chance encounter, many years ago, with the true story of a eunuch slave who was picked up off the street by a Roman general and presented to his teenage daughter as a gift; and who later rose to a position of great power.

“I couldn’t stop wondering – what does it feel like to be a gift?” she said. The question kept nagging at her.  She knew the basic outline of his life, which in itself was unusual; castrated as a child, Eutropius rose from being a slave to become the closest advisor to Emperor Arcadius, who appointed him consul. But beyond that, she said, “I knew nothing about the place, the geography, the history.” 

After I took this trip, I started the book research, and read and read.” Steeped in the history, she began to write, and the characters began to emerge. Some, including the Emperor Valentinian and the two ferocious bears that served as his bodyguards, are historic figures. Others, most notablySophie, the general's daughter, to whom Eutropius is given, are almost entirely imagined.
 
“She developed in the book in a way I had no idea she would, from a silly girl to a mature woman,” Webb said.  Sophie reads, explores issues of philosophy and religion, and, to her husband’s dismay, becomes engaged in literature and political matters far outside the norm for a woman of her time; but not impossible.
 
“I found a woman – Hypatia – who was a philosopher and a mathematician,” Webb said. An historical figure, she lived in Egypt during the period when Webb’s novel takes place. “She had the nerve to set up and teach in her home. She walked in the street wearing a philosopher’s gown…She did things only men were supposed to do.” Webb said. “Sophie aspired to that.”
 
Over the course of the novel, Sophie’s story develops into an intriguing subplot that Webb disclosed might form the basis for a sequel.
 
Though this is her first published novel, it is not her first experience with publishing. She has had short stories published in literary journals, and has taught writing for many years. 

Two previous novels were considered by major publishers; neither made it into print, despite her rewriting one five times at the request of an editor. This time, she found an internet publisher who has a submission and review process; provides layout and design; offers some marketing advice, and operates on a cost-sharing basis.

“So it’s not self-publishing, but it’s not mainstream either,” she said. One advantage is that it’s printed on demand, “which is good – because it never goes out of print,” she said.
 
Innocence and Gold Dust is available online from Amazon;  Barnes and Noble; through the publisher; and is available on Kindle.
 
Webb, who lives in the Rydal Park retirement community, will be signing her books at the Barnes and Noble store at 835 Old York Road, Jenkintown, from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, December 10. 

 Webb-bookcover.jpg 
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Poet laments end of city's factory era


By Marcia Z. Siegal
Poet Jean Grenfell, 70, writes of what she knows. In her free-verse poem “Philly Factories,” the retired factory worker reflects on the end of the city’s  manufacturing heyday and the decline of the once-thriving neighborhoods surrounding these former factories.

“There used to be a factory on every corner of this city
North and south and east and west, Philly made the very best
From Stetson hats to Quaker lace…
And then one day I looked around. …
And there ain’t no factories to be found…”



During much of the last century, Philadelphia was famous as a manufacturing hub that produced candy and furniture; aluminum and paper products; mattresses; electronics; carpets; clothing; rail cars and much more. 

“I never had a problem getting a job. You could walk from one factory to the next. There was always someplace hiring,” says Grenfell, who depended on that income as a single mother of three during the 70s and 80s, when she worked in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. 

The factories and the well-being of their adjacent communities were bound up together, according to Grenfell. In her poem  “Neighborhoods,” she writes:

   “First there was a factory and the people came to work, and the area started to grow with houses here and there, and a corner stores and schools and churches were built around the factories./And people were Proud of what they had./A good job and family, a nice house and good friends, and life was good./And the city grew and grew to become nice neighborhoods here and there...”

Grenfell’s decades in factory work included stints at manufacturers of local and national renown, such as  Jantzen’s swimsuits and sportswear; Data Display; Robert Bruce sweaters; and Burgoyne Cards, the site of her one of her last factory jobs, where she operated a Heidelberg printing machine and became a supervisor.

In her view, the 1980s marked the beginning, and the 1990s saw the trend fully realized, as one by one, the manufacturing plants on which so many livelihoods depended, shut down.

“Work weeks would be reduced because the factories weren’t getting as many orders. Then, they would dismiss the ‘odds-and-ends’ people on the production lines. Those of us who were left would do our jobs and theirs. Finally, there was nothing left to do. I remember at one of my last jobs, we would wipe the table and let the dirt fall on the floor, and then sweep it up,” she recalls, describing the final weeks of one such shutdown.

Many of these Philadelphia factories merged into other companies or relocated elsewhere in the U.S., where labor was cheaper. Eventually, much of American manufacturing moved overseas.

   “Whatever happened to/Buy local/or/Made in the U.S.A./or/Look for the union label/…,” Grenfell laments in “American Factory Workers.”

While factory owners focused on cutting costs, the cost to their surrounding communities was devastating, she says. When factory workers lost their source of income, mom-and-pop stores, restaurants, dime stores, butcher shops, clothing stores, and other commercial establishments that catered to workers and their families shut down. These once-proud neighborhoods have yet to recover, as Grenfell points out in her poem “Neighborhoods.”

    “…No factory, just a shell. No people, no nice houses. Because the people lost faith in where they lived…”

Grenfell trained as an animal laboratory technician and also as a pharmacy technician as the factory era ended. Soon after, she retired for good. Now remarried, and living in Frankford — another onetime Philadelphia factory neighborhood — she devotes herself  to  family and to self-taught  artistic pursuits.

These include painting in addition to poetry.  Her idyllic and colorful rock painting, “Red Roof House,” was one of 167 artworks by seniors showcased for “Celebrate Arts and Aging,” presented by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging this past May.

Known in her neighborhood for her Italian bread, Grenfell also hosts regular sessions in her home to teach her neighbors this domestic art.  

The return of city factories, which could do so much to revive struggling neighborhoods, is likely a dream, Grenfell concedes. It is one she cherishes nevertheless. She writes in “American Factory Workers:"


 "American factory workers are proud workers and hard workers
Bring our factories back home.”
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Computer repair


By Pam George
Computer not working as it should? Repair services are available
 
Geek Squad, others
on call to set it up,
solve problems
 
 
By Pam George
 
Own a computer long enough and you’ll become familiar with one of the following scenarios:
• A scroll of seemingly meaningless computer code takes over your screen.
• The computer reports that operating files are missing.
• The computer simply doesn’t work properly—if at all.
• The screen goes dark.
Whom can you call? Quite a few services fit the bill. Among the best known is the Geek Squad, launched by Robert Stephens in Minneapolis in 1994. Purchased by Best Buy, the service is now offered in every Best Buy store.
Geek Squad members are available 24/7. You can call them on the phone, find them online, visit them in a Best Buy store or request a house call, made in VW bugs by “Agents” wearing clip-on bow ties and white shirts.
 
Virus removal not enough
 
“We cover any and all needs, from training to setup to recovering data from old computers to viruses and hardware problems,” says Brian Valdez, a Geek Squad Double Agent, who covers the Philadelphia region from the Deptford, N.J., Best Buy.
The most common concerns involve dealing with virus issues or setting up a wireless system. Just removing the virus may not be enough. “Like a cancer in the body, a virus can affect the way the machine works,” Valdez explains.
EasyTech, Staples’ answer to Best Buy, offers technicians who help set up computers and handle repairs, which range from virus removal to hard-drive recovery of information to diagnostics.
The big-box stores aren’t the only companies catering to the home market. Drexel Hill-based House Call Computer Guru primarily covers Delaware, Montgomery and Chester counties, but often comes into Philadelphia.
 
Back up your data
 
Bardissi Enterprises in Hatfield also services home computers. Owner George Bardissi says many of his calls stem from hardware-related computer crashes. There are times when technicians can recover information and/or repair the computer. There are other times when it’s a total loss. “We always hate to deliver that message,” he says.
Some sources of  help:
Geek Squad: 1-800-GEEKSQUAD or geeksquad.com
Staples Easy Tech: www.staples.com/sbd/cre/marketing/tech_09/repair.html
House Call Computer Guru: 610-636-5455
Bardissi Enterprises: 215-853-2266 or www.bardissi.net
 
 
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Computer repair


By Pam George
Computer not working as it should? Repair services are available
 
Geek Squad, others
on call to set it up,
solve problems
 
 
By Pam George
 
Own a computer long enough and you’ll become familiar with one of the following scenarios:
• A scroll of seemingly meaningless computer code takes over your screen.
• The computer reports that operating files are missing.
• The computer simply doesn’t work properly—if at all.
• The screen goes dark.
Whom can you call? Quite a few services fit the bill. Among the best known is the Geek Squad, launched by Robert Stephens in Minneapolis in 1994. Purchased by Best Buy, the service is now offered in every Best Buy store.
Geek Squad members are available 24/7. You can call them on the phone, find them online, visit them in a Best Buy store or request a house call, made in VW bugs by “Agents” wearing clip-on bow ties and white shirts.
 
Virus removal not enough
 
“We cover any and all needs, from training to setup to recovering data from old computers to viruses and hardware problems,” says Brian Valdez, a Geek Squad Double Agent, who covers the Philadelphia region from the Deptford, N.J., Best Buy.
The most common concerns involve dealing with virus issues or setting up a wireless system. Just removing the virus may not be enough. “Like a cancer in the body, a virus can affect the way the machine works,” Valdez explains.
EasyTech, Staples’ answer to Best Buy, offers technicians who help set up computers and handle repairs, which range from virus removal to hard-drive recovery of information to diagnostics.
The big-box stores aren’t the only companies catering to the home market. Drexel Hill-based House Call Computer Guru primarily covers Delaware, Montgomery and Chester counties, but often comes into Philadelphia.
 
Back up your data
 
Bardissi Enterprises in Hatfield also services home computers. Owner George Bardissi says many of his calls stem from hardware-related computer crashes. There are times when technicians can recover information and/or repair the computer. There are other times when it’s a total loss. “We always hate to deliver that message,” he says.
Some sources of  help:
Geek Squad: 1-800-GEEKSQUAD or geeksquad.com
Staples Easy Tech: www.staples.com/sbd/cre/marketing/tech_09/repair.html
House Call Computer Guru: 610-636-5455
Bardissi Enterprises: 215-853-2266 or www.bardissi.net
 
 
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Acclaimed nationally, but Philly's his home


By Marcia Z. Siegal
Emil DeJohn’s designs have graced Presidential daughters Julie and Tricia Nixon, performing artist Barbra Streisand, and the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, and other top national fashion magazines. He has designed his own private label collections for Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus.

Yet the designer, now age 73, has never been uprooted from life in in his native Philadelphia, commuting to New York as needed because “my friends and family” are here, he says.


DeJohn says he’s been fascinated with fashion since he was 10 years old, when he would follow what the models and movie stars were wearing. "The basic ingredient for a designer is passion,” he says. “Without the passion to work endlessly to make something beautiful, you can never do it.”

While no longer subject to the all-consuming pressure of a designer’s daily life, he regularly attends runway shows in New York City and in the international fashion capitals of Paris and Milan to keep apprised of the latest trends and to network with his contacts in the industry on behalf of his students at The Art Institute of Philadelphia (AIPH) http://www.artinstitutes.edu/philadelphia/.  He has been professor of design at AIPH since 1996. 

“Every year is a trend,” says DeJohn. “This year designers like Oscar (de la Renta) and Caroline (Herrera), are showing lots of bold colors.  Oscar’s collection was amazing, a lot of black, white, and red and Matisse-like prints.” 

DeJohn’s own design career spanned the 1960s through the mid-1990s.  He has worked as head designer for Bergdorf Goodman’s Dress and Gown Department; the Bill Blass Men’s Sportswear Division; Jones New York Ladies’ and Men’s Divisions and designed high-end children’s wear.

While those were exciting days, filled with the adrenalin rush of readying a collection for its debut, the work “not only had to be beautiful and look great on the runway, it had to sell. If the work didn’t sell, it negated all the rest,” the designer remembers.

DeJohn cites fashion icons Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly as among his all-time favorites for the “nice, clean, elegant lines” in the way they dressed. “It made the world a pretty place,” he reflects.

A particular highlight in his long career occurred when he was asked by a colleague to provide items from his collection for a young woman described to him as an “an amazing singer with the voice of an angel.”
“She’s going to be great some day,” DeJohn’s colleague assured him, “and when she becomes famous she’ll be wearing clothes you designed.” The prediction was borne out soon after, when Barbra Streisand wore a DeJohn “day-to-evening” creation during one of her first TV appearances.   

DeJohn switched to teaching 15 years ago when he joined the design faculty of AIPH. He also served during part of that period as director of the Fashion Design Department at Drexel University and as chairman of the Fashion Design Department at Moore College of Art and Design.

In his current role with AIPH, he is proud to use his passion to teach and his contacts to help students get jobs and internships. His students have worked for such celebrated merchandisers and designers as at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Jones New York, Betsey Johnson, Narcisso Roriguez, Diane Von Furstenberg, Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta. 

Much of the U.S. fashion industry today centers on clothing by companies like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, reflecting a more casual trend. But, says DeJohn, “People will always need to dress and go out and there will always be a place for good design.”  

Photo courtesy of Emil DeJohn

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Spotting and fighting age discrimination


By Marcia Z. Siegal
Age discrimination is a major problem in the workplace, according to   Philadelphia employment attorney David Koller. Forty is the magic number, he says — the threshold at which federal and state age discrimination protections kick in. 

Consider the following scenarios:
       •An individual 40+ is terminated for a reason that is not accurate and replaced with someone in his/her 20s who is less credentialed and qualified for the job.
       • Out of a workforce of 100 people, 20 are laid off and most, if not all, are above age 40. Out of the 80 who remain employed, the percentage disproportionately favors younger workers.
        • An older worker experiences fewer opportunities for training and upgrading his/her skills and, after years of excellent performance reviews, receives poor evaluations. Requests are denied to work on cutting-edge or high-visibility projects.
        • An older worker is passed over for a promotion in favor of someone younger and less qualified.


The situations above, cited by Koller and local career consultant Beth Ann Wilson, CMF,  could be signs of age discrimination.

Here’s some advice on what to do if age discrimination is suspected: 
      •Immediately begin to document comments (including email and text messages), actions, names, dates, and locations of incidents and who was present at the time.  “Making careful notes will help create an objective description that can be used to substantiate your story,” says Wilson.
      •Check whether the company has a policy or procedure in place for reporting this type of conduct.  Larger companies might have confidential toll-free numbers.  If there is no policy or procedure, request a meeting with the Human Resources Director to address concerns about discriminatory treatment from a manager.
      •If the matter still cannot be resolved, says Koller, submit a complaint to the person designated to handle such matters, or if there is none, to the Human Resources Director. This should be done in person and in writing so that it is documented if needed in the future.
      • Consider consulting with an attorney. An attorney may be able to assist with writing a complaint and provide behind-the scenes counseling on how to handle the matter internally.
      •If the matter cannot be resolved within the workplace, it may be appropriate to take legal recourse  by filing  a Charge of Discrimination with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  or a Complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission .  Either is appropriate;  the two agencies work together and serve the same purpose, according to Koller. Ideally, you can dual file, he says.

Here are some cautionary factors to consider:
      • The reporting process is usually labeled confidential; but retaliation, or the concept of being treated unfavorably by your supervisor or employer after you submit a complaint, is a major problem and a hot issue in employment law right now, says Koller.
      • What seems like age discrimination may actually be changes in organizational culture or policy that is impacting employees regardless of age. For example, an organizational shift to a new emphasis on technology or employees having an MBA may feel like discrimination, but, in reality, is a legitimate business shift, says Wilson.
      •Generally, older workers make more money than younger colleagues. Lay-off decisions are often based on money-saving factors. Courts have ruled that employers can terminate older workers who make more money, so a decision made solely on economic terms generally will not constitute age discrimination, according to Koller. However, there could be other factors that might affect the outcome of any particular situation, he notes.
      • Cases are not easy to prove. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court made this standard harder by placing the full burden on employees to prove that age was a deciding factor in the employment decision, Koller says.

For information about obtaining legal advice for suspected age discrimination, consult the Philadelphia Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service  . For information on finding a career consultant, click here .
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Age Discrimination in the Workplace


By Marcia Z. Siegal

Many Americans age 55 to 70
are continuing to work past the standard retirement age and/or are returning to work, according to a national survey of aging workers by the MetLife Mature Market Institute® 

The reasons vary: the desire to stay productive;  a nest egg decimated by the downturn; or insufficient savings to begin with. Yet individuals in that age group can have a harder time getting hired and experts say a “gray ceiling” can also come in to play for those who are currently employed.

Workers 55 and over have been especially hard hit in the economic downturn. Older workers not only are enduring record-high levels of unemployment, but also stay jobless longer than others, according to the U.S. Labor Department

Older workers may battle a number of stereotypes, including that they can't or won't learn new skills; aren't flexible or adaptable; and take more sick days than younger workers, according to the website qwuintcareers.com, which refutes all of these.



Age discrimination has been illegal since the 1967 federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)  which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants based on their age. ADEA protection extends to individuals who are 40 years of age or older and covers employers who have 20 or more workers.

“We have a youth culture in this country, where younger is better than older,” says Tom Osborne, senior attorney with the AARP Foundation Washington, D.C. In a recent article posted on monster.com  “It doesn’t matter how good you are at your job or how much experience you’ve acquired over the years. If you’re rounding the corner toward 50, you’d be smart to start looking for signs of age bias.”

Here are some possible red flags for job seekers:
  • When age is posted as a job requirement even though it is not a bona fide requirement for being able to do the job
  • When an applicant is told he/she is overqualified. Note: Ask to see a job description.


For those currently employed, some red flags could be:

  • Being repeatedly bypassed for job-related training and education in favor of younger colleagues
  • Being passed over for promotions in favor of younger colleague despite a history of good performance reviews


According to a recent RetirementJobs.com & interbiznet White Paper by Robert Skladany and John Sumsers entitled “Baby Boomers Redefine Retirement - Ageism Is The Next Frontier” “There is an emerging consensus that the baby boomers –the youngest just now turning 60, could yield a noticeable increase in age bias claims to the next five to ten years… This is a generation that grew up during the civil rights and Vietnam War protests eras. They have stood up and sat down for their rights and learned to seek legal redress for individual wrong.”

Click here for advice on monster.com  about avoiding age bias in the workplace.

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Becoming a Dom Care provider


Dom Care providers come from all walks of life. Some are widows or older couples; others are young families. All are compassionate people willing to welcome those with special needs into their homes and provide care for them.

In return for providing services and taking the consumer into their home, Dom Care providers receive a monthly stipend for each individual, up to a maximum of three persons. Interested Dom Care providers must complete a certification process to ensure that their homes meet fire, health and safety regulations.
Providers must also:

  • Complete criminal history clearances.
  • Have satisfactory financial, medical and personal references.
  • Attend on-going training sessions.
  • Work as a team member with care managers and consumers.


If you are interested in becoming a Dom Care provider, call the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040 to request an application packet; or click here for more information. 
 
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Test Drive Your Dream Career


By Marcia Z. Siegal
testdrive.jpg
Maybe you've always dreamed of raising bison, breeding horses, or owning a bed and breakfast.

Maybe your friends, spouse and children think you're crazy for dreaming of such things. Here's a low-risk way to find out if you're cut out for the career of your dreams: a "Vocation Vacation."

Right this minute, eight bed and breakfast owners from Oregon to New Hampshire, are waiting to show you the ropes, and let you see what it's really like. Two days of one-on-one mentoring range from $549 to $999. That's a lot cheaper than buying a property first and finding out afterwards whether it's a chance to "meet lots of new and interesting people"  or if it feels more like "never being alone in your own house."
 
Meanwhile, out in Wisconsin, Georgia Derrick and Jim Alten are ready to give you a three-day whirl of mending fences, collecting hay, deworming, weighing and herding 300 bison, and learning how to manage and make a living on a ranch.

Pulling these opportunities together into VocationVacations® was the brainchild of Brian Kurth.


He wanted to “test the waters of his own dream.”   Then working in product marketing for the telecommunications industry, he wondered whether there was some way he might experiment with other vocations while on a traditional vacation. Learning that nothing like that was available, he created it,  Since its founding six years ago, the organization has provided hundreds of individuals, ranging in age from 18 to 80, with a chance to try out vocations by immersing themselves for one to three days in their dream career.

Headquartered in Portland Oregon, VocationVacations® operates in more than 30 states and teams with more than 300 mentors to offer short-term vocation experiences. The organization offers more than 150 one-on-one mentorships including: animation producer, antique dealer, bison rancher, comedian, chef, chocolatier, singer/songwriter, stained glass artist, wildlife rehabilitator, and more.

Costs range from a one-day brew master experience at $549 to a two-day Broadway producer/director experience at $2,999. According to the VocationVacations’® website, “approximately 20 percent of ‘vocationers’ have either switched careers or have undertaken strategic steps to attain their dream job."

Toni Cory, owner of Almost Home Dog Day Care and Boarding   in Iowa, is one of them. A one-time computer programmer for a factory, she spent a day on a dog daycare career mentorship to check out the possibility of her next career move. “I thought owning that kind of business was a great idea, but I had no idea what I was getting into,” she remembers. “There I was ready to go off and throw every penny I had into it without knowing if it was right for me. I had tried to educate myself, but until you’re in that situation, you have no idea what it entails.”

Her one-day experience with mentors Dawn and Dick Walton at Dog Zone Daycare was invaluable, according to Cory. “We covered everything that day,” she says.  “We spent time in the morning with dogs – I had never been around a group of dogs before—and spent the afternoon looking into the business aspects of running an operation like this. It showed me that I could do this and that I wanted to do this.”

Her mentors also shared with her the kind of problems they encountered when building their facility and, as a result, “I was able to save thousands of dollars when we built our building by avoiding those kinds of problems,” Cory notes.


Now in its fourth year, Cory’s business “has really taken off,” she says. “We now have four dog handlers, two people to do the cleaning and about 1,000 clients in our data base. It’s so rewarding to be able to love dogs and help people.”

Cory Chacon is another satisfied customer. Chacon, who had worked for more than 15 years as an international marketing executive for major record labels, went on a vocation vacation to try out her dream of working in the hotel industry. Now a concierge at the luxury Muse Hotel in Manhattan, she credits this experience with providing the foundation she needed, in addition to affirming her interest in her new career choice. “It provided contacts. I was able to follow up with these contacts and get interviews and eventually, a job,” she says.

Mentors make VocationVacations® possible, and they are enthusiastic about their role, according to Kurth. “We used to scout out mentors. We still do,” he says. “But increasingly they come to us.” While mentors are paid for their services, they also understand it’s a way to give back. “One of our mentors, a former CNN correspondent, became a baseball announcer,” Kurth recalls, and now mentors other aspiring sports broadcasters. “He told us ‘I love what I do. It would be criminal not to share it.’”

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Library provides lifeline for job seekers


By Marcia Z. Siegal
As tough economic times continue, an increasing number of job seekers have come to rely on the job-hunting resources offered by the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Workplace Job and Career Center.  Some are in desperate situations.

“There was a man who came to us last year because his business had failed,” recalls the Free Library of Philadelphia’s (FLP) Paul Savedow. “His circumstances had fallen so low, he was actually living out of his car.

“He was somebody who needed to know how to set up an email account, how to job search on the internet, and how to create a new  résumé,” says Savedow. “We were able to help him with all of those things, which  enabled him to get a job on his own. He recently secured a job as a recruiter for a career school.”  

Housed at the FLP Parkway Central Library at 1901 Vine Street, this walk-in center draws job seekers and career-changers of all ages and levels of experience, an estimated 40% of them age 50 and over, according to Savedow.


For those on the job hunt, entrepreneurs and nonprofit professionals, the Library offers a wealth of resources, training and research assistance, and a full calendar of programs and workshops. Best of all, as library President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon points out, they’re all free.

A Workplace Wednesdays series includes sessions on skills assessment, resume-writing, interviewing techniques, and how to use internet and library resources for job hunting. Other programs focus on topics such as social networking for business. For entrepreneurs, an October 12 program offers business advice and personalized counseling by retired and current executives volunteers from SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation, growth and success of small businesses nationwide. Click here for a full listing of Workplace events.
 
The library’s Business, Science and Industry Department houses a vast collection of industry trade magazines, subscription databases and directories invaluable to entrepreneurs, fundraisers and nonprofits. The department’s ReferenceUSA database, for instance, has information on over 14 million U.S. companies. 

“Job seekers, salespeople and entrepreneurs need to know the businesses in their market in order to reach their goals,” says Charles Smith, Department Head, Business, Science and Industry Department. “They can use Library databases to create lists of businesses, including contact names and numbers, and start making connections.”
 
Library card holders can access many of the resources remotely, using their card number and PIN.  “Many of our business customers utilize our resources this way,” Smith says. 
 
Reardon describes one satisfied library user, who sought to spin off a division of a company where he was then employed. Through his library research, he was able to identify target markets, analyze the competition, and research many of the challenges involved in business and market planning before making his decision. Now head of one of the region’s largest security firms, he credits much of his start-up success to the resources and expert assistance he received at FLP, Reardon says.
 
For those in the nonprofit sector, the library’s Regional Foundation Center houses resources on fundraising, nonprofit management, general philanthropy and institutional advancement.

Seulky McInneshin, Ph. D., deputy director of SOWN (Supportive Older Women’s Network) says the forums and workshops she’s attended have been invaluable for her and her organization. “They’ve been very useful, especially for nonprofits like ours, which offer services free to the community,” she says of the programs on fundraising, grantsmanship, and nonprofit budgeting she’s attended. “You come away with top-notch information.” 
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Job hunting? Polish your résumé first


By Enid Rosenblatt
One of the first things job hunters should do is develop a polished, professional-looking résumé, says Judy Cherry, coordinator of the Career Solutions for 55+ program of JEVS Human Services.

Career Solutions is open to Philadelphians 55 and older, and provides career counseling, job readiness workshops, résumé and job interview preparation, access to a computer lab and online job leads.  

In addition to rewriting the résumé, those uncomfortable with technology should upgrade essential computer skills. "Keep up-to-date with software and technology, whether through classes, on the job, part-time or volunteer work," is the advice from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Career Guide


Do it yourself
Cherry emphasizes the importance of rewriting your résumé yourself rather than having it written for you. "Updating your résumé will help you prepare for the interview," she says.  
  
Most older workers include too much information in their résumés, Cherry says. She advises not including more than 15 years of work history.
 
Because of a biased belief that older people have trouble getting along with others, emphasize your people skills over your "hard" skills.

"People sometimes make the mistake of including only hard skills, what they did on the job on a day to day basis," she says.  
  
Tailor the résumé to the job
  
Read your prospective employer's job description to determine the requirements for the position and revise your résumé for each prospective job opportunity. While your résumé should be concise, it is all right to exceed one page, if necessary. Since many recruiters today get résumés via the Internet and may be scanning 35 or 40 every 10 or 20 minutes, it is essential that your résumé include only relevant skills that match what the employer is looking for.
 
Other suggestions
*If you’ve ever worked with confidential information, guidelines or procedures, include that information.
* Do include information about your computer proficiencies with programs, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PeopleSoft
* Don’t include proficiencies with outdated equipment, such as dictaphones or switchboard
* Don’t include personal information, such as marriage, children or hobbies.
* Avoid including anything that will date you, such as your graduation year.  
*Don't mention military decorations that you received long ago. 
 
JEVS Career Solutions (215-560-5465)  is open to Philadelphians 55 and older. There are weekly orientation sessions and there is no charge for the program.
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Careers: better on the rebound?


By Marcia Z. Siegal
Change can be painful, but career counselor Marc Jacobs has some great stories about people making the most out of the second half of life.

There’s the successful fundraiser, for instance, who was laid off when fundraising crashed nationwide as a result of the ‘Great Recession.’

He was in his early 60s when he had to make a new start. Now, Jacobs says, he owns a café and is having a great time.


Then there’s the engineer in his 50s, also a casualty of today’s economy, who was unable to secure a new job in his specialized field. He’s become a public adjuster, drawing on his longstanding interest in antiques to evaluate insurance claims about period furniture and other antique items. He makes use of another passion — participating in Revolutionary War re-enactments — (and the costume he had on hand for these occasions) to give in-character paid presentations to local civic and youth groups. He now also conducts tours of Washington Crossing Park, in costume, of course; work he never would have thought about before being forced into new professional ventures.

Tough transitions

The stories of such transitions in the second half of life, especially those precipitated by unemployment crises, are not fairytales, Jacobs is quick to point out. “Many people have to be dragged kicking and screaming” into a new line of  work,” he observes. Most initially seek to find the kind of job they had previously,  ideally at higher pay. They may be left struggling to pay for health insurance and basic household bills and dealing with depression that makes it difficult to move forward. 

“It’s a long, hard haul,” he says. “Many of the jobs that existed before aren’t coming back, especially in the corporate world. You have to take opportunities and make opportunities.”

The tri-part career of the public adjuster/Revolutionary War re-enactor/tour guide is typical of what Jacobs terms “flash careers,” temporary or more permanent arrangements that are increasingly prevalent for people making changes in mid-life. “Often people are doing two and three things just to get by,” he observes.

Counseling can help

Jacobs counsels individuals and groups on career guidance, business mentoring, and professional development and performance enhancement at the Resiliency Center in Ambler. He personally exemplifies the power of career changes, having transitioned from a career in social services to running his own business to his present work.
 
Whether spurred by a long-term plan or an acute job crisis, career transitions begin by assessing personal as well as professional goals and, if need be, creating a financial plan, including a budget, to bridge the gap until a new job comes through.  “You need to identify your skill set and the opportunities for your skill set,” Jacobs says. “If you’re thinking of a changing fields but not sure of what direction you want to go, aptitude testing may help you find out what you want to do.”
 
The best way to job hunt and to explore new ventures is to make use of networking to find the hidden job market, he advises “Meet with professionals in the field you are interested in and find out what they do. Ask them to recommend people you might talk to. The goal is to come away with three new contacts from each of these information interviews.”

Sometimes serendipity plays a role.

Jacobs tells the story of an attorney who decided to retire from the law firm where had had been a partner and start a new career. He decided to start an ice cream stand in a local building after strolling by the place with his wife one day and hearing her talk of the ice cream shop that had been there years ago. He’s been so successful with this venture that he recently opened another in a nearby town.  “I wouldn’t be surprised if he opens his own chain of ice cream shops one day,” Jacobs says.
 
Many online resources

AARP offers information on mid and later-life career changes on its website. Civic Ventures  operates “Encore Careers," a program focusing on non-profit and public interest careers for those transitioning careers in mid-life; and Bizstarters offers tips for starting a business at age 50+. 
  
 
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Click to upload resumé


By Linda L. Riley
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When’s the last time you looked for a job? If it’s been awhile, chances are you remember waiting for Sunday, when the classified section of the Inquirer would be at its fattest.
 
Browsing through the employment listings, marker in hand, struggling to figure out the logic behind the listings and circling any and all possibilities is now a thing of the past. Yesterday there were two – that’s right – two – jobs listed in the print edition classified section of the Philadelphia Inquirer. And it’s not because of the recession. All the jobs now are listed online. In fact, you have to wonder why those two jobs were in the print edition – what were they thinking?

Online job listings and related services have become big business. As with the newspaper classified sections, employers pay to list jobs with online search engines. Some of the biggest and best-known job search engines are monster, careerbuilder and, for jobs in the nonprofit sector, idealist. The Inquirer hasn’t given up on the classifieds; it’s partnered with monster.com to have its own distinctive online service.  Phillyjobs offers the option of searching by travel route and will also show you the jobs on a map, which you don’t get on the regular monster site; but all the same jobs appear to be listed.  

 
You would think that computerizing the search would eliminate the headache of trying to mind meld with whoever creates the categories. Each of the sites offers a series of fields where you can insert your own keywords, choose location, skill level, type of job and let the computer do the searching. But even these categories were created by humans.
 
For example, monster offers you a set of check boxes for industries, and another for occupations, Search in vain for “social services” as a kind of industry – it isn’t there. But  “consumer packaged goods manufacturing” is. To find a job in social service you have to go into occupations/medical, health – aha! there it is! But here is another twist – some organizations apparently choose “nonprofit/charitable” instead of “social services” as the category where they will be listed. So there is still some mind-melding involved.
 
Careerbuilder will only let you choose one industry at a time, but offers the option of selecting up to three categories of jobs. Categories include choices such as entry level and executive, social services and research, and some of these overlap with the industry options. When the results come up, more category breakdowns are shown, including company names and how many jobs are open at each one.
 
At monster, in addition to job searches there are articles on interviewing, changing careers, job hunting at age 50-plus and more. For a fee, you can also have a resume and cover letter written for you; take a test to find out what career is best for you; and even have your resume sent out to a customized list of recruiters in your field. Prices for all this range from about $20 for a “Fast Look at U” snapshot of your personality and behavioral style to about $400 for an executive resume and cover letter package.
 
On idealist, in addition to searching for jobs you can sign up for email alerts in nine categories which include jobs, internships, events and campaigns. Topic areas range from art and architecture to women’s issues and include both the practical (claims and examining) and the metaphysical (religion, spiritual and metaphysical issues).
 
Many companies, including Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, have their own online job sites, so if you have an idea of where you would like to work, you can bookmark these and check them periodically.
 
One big advantage of online job hunting is the ease with which you can apply. Once your resumé is ready, it’s just a couple of clicks away from being submitted.
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Creative casting breaks barriers


By Bill Kent
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The role of Hector in British playwright Alan Bennett's The History Boys was written for a boisterous, charismatic Englishman. But last year at the Arden Theatre, it was played by Frank X, an urbane African American well-known to Philadelphia theater-goers.

It was a part he never dreamed he'd get, he says. In casting this part, he says race might have "been an obstacle 20 years ago, and you still run into it from time to time. But I've been lucky that the people I've worked with have been able to go beyond that."

"Frank is one of Philadelphia's most sought-after actors," says Arden artistic director Terrence J. Nolen. "I was thrilled that he was available.

Critics were overwhelmingly positive about his performance. Nolen went on to cast him in two other roles not written for black actors - Duke Montague in Romeo and Juliet and the villainous Captain Hook in Peter Pan

Frank Xavier (his stage name was his childhood nickname) has appeared in well over 100 productions here and in New York, Princeton, Seattle, Louisville and Washington, D.C. In nearly 30 years, he has played lovers, strangers, artists, fools and some of the most celebrated roles ever written for the stage. In 1996, he won the Barrymore Award -- Philadelphia's most prestigious theatrical honor -- as Best Lead Actor in InterAct Theatre Company's production of Lonely Planet

Not destined to be a doctor

Raised in West Philadelphia, Xavier wanted to be a dancer after seeing a production of Godspell. He got a taste of show business when he appeared at the Academy of Music with his school dance troupe. Later, inspired by Walter Kerr's writings in the New York Times, "I thought it would be the most amazing thing to write a play."

But he won a pre-med scholarship to Johns Hopkins University and planned to become a physician. A playwriting course changed his mind. He transferred to New York University, and when a professor suggested he try acting to better understand how to write plays, he discovered he had a knack for it.
 
Financial constraints caused him to abandon his studies in 1981. Back in Philadelphia, he went on auditions and began to get parts. He thought acting would be a "momentary glitch, a thing to keep me busy for a year or two until I settled down to writing plays."

Instead, acting became his profession, and, except for brief stints in other areas, he remained in Philadelphia, working odd jobs by day, and acting in the evenings on local stages, doing voice-overs for TV commercials and "being cut from negligible motion pictures."

No expiration date for this actor

Recently, relaxing between performances of Romeo and Juliet, at a coffee shop near the Arden Theatre, he recalled having a variety of odd jobs "to make ends meet. For most of my career, I was living with my mother. She raised me as a single parent, and until she died six years ago, caring for her was the primary concern."

He credits several local theater companies, including the Lantern, InterAct and Arden, for "saving me from disillusionment. There are roles for younger men that I wouldn't get now, but many excellent roles for older men that I am getting.

"Acting," he concludes, "is like no other career in the arts, in that there really is no age limit, no expiration date. I've learned never to say I don't want a role, because the surprise is just too delicious when I get it."
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She gives help, hope, healing through art


By Marcia Z. Siegal



Nancy Collier remembers vividly the call she received a year ago. The caller’s elderly husband had suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak. “He sits around all day watching TV and follows me around when I clean,” the woman said, adding that the stress of the situation was becoming unbearable.


But all that has changed over the past year. Collier's patient, once a master carpenter, now produces  drawings and paintings notable for their precise attention to detail as well as their beauty. “We started simply at first,” Collier recalls of his early sessions with her. “He wanted to draw. In the beginning, I had him copy images laid upside down upon the table — a technique frequently used with brain-damaged patients to stimulate the brain’s more creative right hemisphere to take over."



Over time, he’s become much more confident, independent and calm, she says. His wife has set up a studio for him in the dining room, and his neurologist can’t get over how much he is improving.


This late-blooming artist is one of thousands of people Collier and her colleagues at New Outlook Therapy have helped over the years  —  in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, classrooms and in their homes. 


A former art and music teacher, Collier first fully realized the healing power of the arts when her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer 26 years ago. “The doctor said she would live at most two weeks, and there was nothing to do but put her in a nursing home,” Collier recalls.


Instead she brought her mother home to live with her family.  “I knew she always wanted to play the drums, so one night, when a colleague’s son’s band was having a reunion, I invited my mother to come along. She joined in playing the full drum set as if she had played for years,” Collier says. “She stayed past midnight, then was up bright and early the next day.” Her mother continued to pursue arts activities and lived for 13 months instead of the two weeks predicted. “It taught me that the arts have healing powers,” Collier says.


That experience inspired her to leave teaching and found the program. The name was inspired by a patient’s wife, who said the therapy gave her husband a “new outlook” on life. Described on its website as “providing a quality of life, restoring hope, humor, healing and an enthusiastic 'New Outlook,'” the program currently serves clients in Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. In addition to Collier, there are six  volunteer teachers and “we are always looking for more,” she says.


Their logo is a butterfly, and the symbol is apt. “Many of the people we see are in a cocoon, a chrysalis of fear, pain and despair,“ she explains.  “They think there is nothing they can do. We help them to spread their wings and be free.” 


The program has helped patients with conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s Disease and stroke to Down’s Syndrome, cancer, multiple sclerosis and more. Therapy is matched to  the needs, abilities and interests of each patient or group and can comprise visual arts; music; creative writing;  telling jokes and humorous stories; or such  multi-sensory activities as simultaneous singing and painting; writing and illustrating a children’s book; or setting an original poem to music.


Success stories include a mother with terminal brain cancer who created a scrapbook of paintings and poems for her young daughter; a patient with Lou Gehrig’s Disease who learned to paint by holding a paintbrush in his mouth; and a older, isolated  woman suffering from depression who created a cookbook of her special recipes and then became involved in planning weekly family dinners.


One of her most memorable clients was a 92-year-old woman, whose daughter had described her as “always complaining about life and all the things she could not do,”  Collier says, “but once she learned to paint,  she took off like anything.” While formerly dreading her weekly calls to her mom, the woman’s daughter now happily calls her twice a week. “Instead of telling me what she’s not doing,” the daughter says, “ she tells me all about her latest masterpiece.”

Photo: Nancy Collier, founder of New Outlook Therapy

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She carries a torch for glass - and sea creatures


By Linda L. Riley

Patti.jpg 


When Patti Dougherty talks about glass, it sounds like the elixir of life. And if that seems like a paradox (because after all, who would drink glass?) it's no more so than glass itself.


People have been making glass for more than 4,000 years. But we still don't understand it. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Philip W. Anderson has called the nature of glass the "deepest and most intersting unsolved problem in solid state theory."


It melts when heated, then solidifies - or seems to. In fact, glass has the random atomic structure of a liquid even when it is solid. Once solidified, it's fragile - but strong. For those who work with it, those paradoxes are utterly seductive.


"It's molten - you dip your blow pipe in and you begin to make a shape, and if you don't like it, you bag it and start over," Dougherty says.


"I like the fluidity of the material. And there's something about the way light can transform color in a liquid." (Click here to see a video of Dougherty in her studio.)


She started out as a ceramics major, but when one of her teachers introduced her to glass, she was hooked.


"It was more immediate than ceramics, where there are so many steps - build it, let it dry, fire it, glaze it, fire it, she said." The whole process can take a week. "I like the spontaneous quality of glass, and the immediacy of it."


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Over the years, she changed direction from blowing glass to lampworking - a process of heating rods of glass with a torch, and shaping them with a variety of hand tools. On a 1987 trip to Murano, Italy, she saw the legendary glass beadmaking that has been a tradition there since the 13th century, and began collecting and making glass beads.


Her work gradually evolved from Venetian-style beads to pieces based on organic forms. "I wanted to make something personal and different, so I brought my biomorphic designs in and changed the surface so it wasn't shiny." Snorkeling, exploring beaches, and combing through marine text books all provide inspiration for her work.


A beachcomber would recognize the small, plump rectangles with tendrils stretching out from each of the four corners; fancifully called mermaid's purses or devil's purses, they're actually shark egg cases. Unlike the dark brown of the real thing, hers shimmer in blues and greens.  


Only a marine biologist could name others - endoprocts, little one-celled marine organizms; microscopic diatoms; all transformed into delicate glass, wearable sculptures in beautiful colors.


She's held various teaching jobs over the years, in both schools and art centers. Most recently, she has set herself up to take workshops on the road - kind of a "have torch, will travel."


"I have a mobile lampworking shop for eight students," she said. She has torches, safety glasses, hand tools - even a small portable kiln. "This way I can serve nonprofits that can't afford this equipment." She teaches glass workshops at the Main Line, Wayne and Abington Art Centers, among others.


Her work is sold through "Art Works for Music," a collaborative created to raise funds for the music programs in the Cheltenham Township Schools. For more information, visit her website. 

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Three local publishers survive against the odds


By Marcia Z. Siegal


The books run the gamut from those about the Philly mob to a more esoteric exploration of Hegelian philosophy, from offbeat survival guides to juvenile fiction; and from Tuscan cooking to cubicle decor. But they all share something in common — they were produced by independent publishers based in Philadelphia. 


Camino Books, established in 1987, publishes “quality nonfiction books of regional interest to people in the middle Atlantic states,” according to its website    Cooking, travel, gardening, and history books dominate, but Camino also publishes biographies, local reference books, and books concerning parenting and health. Among its list are  “Mob Files,” a compilation of articles by Philadelphia Inquirer crime writer George Anastasia; “Being Red in Philadelphia,” a memoir of  the McCarthy era by Sherman Labovitz;  “Going Underground: Your Guide to Caves in the Mid-Atlantic;” and an updated paperback reissue of  the book “Cancer and Vitamin C” by Linus Pauling and Evan Cameron.

The firm releases an average of six to 10 books  a year, according to publisher Edward Jutkowitz, who finds satisfaction in knowing that with each book “you can have a lot of influence on a lot of lives.” While noting that many former Philadelphia publishers were bought out by corporate conglomerates, Jutkowitz is proud to stay independent.  “I’m having too much fun,” he says.

Paul Dry Books, Inc., founded 10 years ago, publishes an average of six to eight books a year, all of which aim to “‘awaken, delight, and educate’—and to spark conversation,” according its website. The firm publishes fiction, including novels and short stories; biography; memoirs; history; and essays. Titles include original works such as “Hotel Kid: A Times Square Childhood” by Stephen Lewis firm also publishes  out- of-print- books it seeks to bring back to the public, such as  Thomas Mann’s novel “The Tablets of the Law” and Johannes Kepler’s 1611 book “The Six-Cornered Snowflake,” the first scientific reference on snow crystals.

 “Some of our books may be tough to read, but they have a lot of nourishment,” says Dry. “If you give them time, you realize there is a lot to them.” Others are very accessible, like “Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America's Most Famous Steps,” by author  Michael Vitez and photographer Tom Gralish. It captures stories and photos of “Rocky runners,” people who come from all over the world to run up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, as did the title character in the 1976 movie. “How do we find a moment to stamp as special?” Dry asks. “Here’s something that speaks to people all over the world.”

Founded in 2002, Quirk Books publishes books on such topics as love and relationships; pop culture; life style; crafts, family and pets and its popular “Worst Case Scenario” survival handbooks. As its name might suggest, Quirk Books is hard to peg.  Among its titles is “Dawn of the Dreadfuls: Pride Prejudice and Zombies,” a horror fiction work by Steve Hockensmith, described on Book List, as “must-read for the growing legion of alternate-Austen fans;”

Others include “The Encyclopedia Shatnerica: An A to Z Guide to the Man and His Universe,”  by Robert Schnakenberg; “Cube Chic: Take Your Office from Drab to Fab” by Kelley L. Moore; and “Creepy Cute Crochet” by Christen Haden, featuring  crochet patterns  for zombies, ninjas, vampires, aliens, and more. 

All three publishers accept unsolicited work, and submission, and each offers submission guidelines on its website. Foremost among the advice is that prospective authors become familiar with the publisher's list. According to its website, some of Quirk Books’ favorites have come from unsolicited manuscripts. 

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'Homebody" gives others a home


By Marcia Z. Siegal
 
When her first husband passed away, Bessie Williams remembers, “I was lonely and wondered what I could do.”  A friend's suggestion led her to a new calling. As a domiciliary (dom) care provider, now she shares her home with physically or mentally disabled adults in need of a supportive living situation. “You have to have a love of people and to want to share in their lives on a daily basis," Williams said.


Now remarried, Williams along with the enthusiastic support of her husband, James, continues this work. The couple’s current household includes a 40-year-old man with Down’s Syndrome and a 50-year-old woman with bipolar disorder.  
 
Dom Care is a state program, which is administered in Philadelphia by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, PCA’s Dom Care program has provided more than  30 years of service to consumers. Through the program, PCA matches adults, who are elderly and/or who may have physical or mental disabilities, with providers who are willing to share their home and provide meals, housekeeping and laundry assistance, arrange transportation to medical appointments, and administer medications and assist with personal hygiene as needed. Most of all, they provide attention and support to consumers who might otherwise be living in an institutional setting, according to Jean Janik, PCA director of community living options. There are approximately 100 openings for consumers available currently, she said.
 
Consumers pay providers a monthly fee, set by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging. PCA arranges the consumer-provider matches. Providers must pass background checks, meet home safety requirements, and participate in ongoing training. Once a living arrangement is established, a PCA care manager remains involved to monitor the situation and provide support. PCA providers are allowed to care for up to two consumers at a time.
 
Williams, who previously cared for seniors through the dom care program, says her life with  her two current dom care residents has evolved into a pleasant routine. In the morning, Williams gets the consumers up, makes sure they are dressed, serves them breakfast and then sees them off to their separate day programs. When the consumers return home, “I make sure they have dinner. We go for a walk, watch TV, and then it’s time to get ready for bed.” Most important, are the talks they have. The two residents  often see their family members on the weekends, go on outings, or enjoy other relaxing activities. James Williams, who works the night shift at a local hospital, is available to help out during his off-hours.
 
“We take great care in arranging the best possible provider-consumer matches,” Janik explained, adding that “There are providers who have been with the program all of its 30 years and consumers who have been with a particular provider 20-plus years.”  


Bessie Williams knows what makes it work for her: When I was younger, I had four kids of my own. They grew up and moved out. I’m a homebody. I enjoy being home – this is my own little world…. The residents love living here. They enjoy the companionship.  They like my cooking. We’re bonded, so we really are ‘family.’” 

For information about becoming a domiciliary care provider, call 215-765-9000, ext. 4437. For domiciliary care consumer inquiries, call the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040.
 
 
 

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Working at finding a job? Here's help


By Marcia Z. Siegal  
The unemployment rate for Americans 55 and older is the highest it’s been since the 1940s, according to Christina Martin Firvida, of AARP. The current recession makes job-hunting prospects especially daunting, but there are resources available to help. 
 
At JEVS Career Solutions 55+, program coordinator Judy Cherry. helps clients develop a "battle plan." She says the challenges include combating stereotypes, such as the belief that older workers lack computer skills; may not be able work well with younger bosses; or are resistant to training. 
  

 
One of  the first objectives is to make sure they “get the computer skills to be competitive,” Cherry says, including not only WORD but also applications like Excel and PowerPoint for workers seeking almost any  management or clerical positions.
Older job seekers also need to realize they may not be able to get the same job they had, she points out, noting that many jobs have disappeared as industries change or companies consolidate or streamline operations. “I advise applicants to look at what is relevant and transferable about the skills and experience they have and to acquire any new skills they may need, she says.
 
 
Retirement jobs.com, aimed at jobseekers age 50 and over, offers a number of suggestions, among them:
•           Create a functional rather than a chronological resume to showcase unique skills and accomplishments that can be brought to the job duties at hand
•           Keep skills sharp by enrolling in professional development courses and  reading industry publications to stay current
•           Reach out to former bosses, colleagues, family members, friends and neighbors who can serve as resources during a job hunt
•           Explore the possibility of non-traditional work arrangements, such as  telecommuting, job sharing, flex time, and seasonal work
 
According to Cherry, the most successful candidates “tend to be those with dynamite resumes, who do a lot of networking and follow-up after job interviews.”
 
Resumes should meet all of the requirements of the job the person is aiming for, emphasize the unique things he or she has to offer and highlight the candidate’s people skills, she says. 
 
Networking should include setting up information interviews, especially for those considering changing fields. Cherry also advises candidates to send a thank-you letter following a job interview and enclose another resume, noting that “Even if you are rejected for a position, you never know whether that job or another suitable position in the company might open up.”
 
Since the job hunt can be grueling, she advocates that clients keep busy and keep their spirits up. ”You can always move forward, she says. “When people tell me they feel depressed or stuck, I say to them, ‘Why are you sitting home and not in a career workshop or doing some kind of training? What about volunteering? There is always something you can do.’” 
More resources can be found on Philadelphia Corporation for Aging's website; through the Philadelphia Mayor's Commission on Services to the Aging; Workforce50.com; and Wiserworker.com.
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Traumatized by "Self-Reinvention Tension"


Humor by Alisa Singer



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A friend of mine talked to me about her plans for retiring soon from her teaching job.  After three long decades of bratty, bored kids, unappreciative, complaining parents, miserly salaries and out of touch and indifferent administrators, she’s ready to be done. 


But she’s troubled by stories she keeps hearing about people starting new, exciting careers after finishing the old ones. She candidly admits that she has no idea of anything else she’d like to do. Having worked long and hard for 30 years, she feels she’s earned the right to do absolutely nothing.  But all these boomers recreating themselves after retirement have been making her feel guilty.  She asked me: “Do I really need to put on my list of New Year’s resolutions: lose ten pounds and reinvent myself?”


I responded that I wasn’t sure if ten pounds would be enough but, as to the reinvention part, I assured her that’s exactly what she would be expected to do.


“You should feel free”, I told her, “to take a very brief intermission following the end of your first career.  But after that the audience (i.e., family, friends and anyone else whose opinion you value) will fully anticipate you to re-emerge onstage with an exciting and meaningful second act performance.” I also explained that it doesn’t matter how long and hard you struggled in your “first act” or how successful you were, because if the second act’s a dud the whole play’s a bomb.


This advice applies to all boomers dreaming about retirement:  Unless you’re willing to suffer the disdain of all you know, you’d better surrender your fond dreams of a future spent watching Seinfeld reruns, enjoying early bird dinner discounts and dodging your kids’ requests to babysit, and instead convert some frivolous hobby or pastime (i.e., your true passion) into meaningful committed work.


You see, just as the feminist movement succeeded in making stay-at-home-mothers feel inadequate, the “bonus years” that boomers supposedly get (because fifty is the new forty) translate into a whole new set of pressures designed to make the stay-at-home retiree also feel like a failure. Words like “reinvention” and “giving back” are all code for “get off the couch, and start trying to impress people again.” Even a doctor’s note indicating a terminal illness will not be considered an acceptable excuse.  (Reference the “Bucket List” where Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson felt compelled to complete a lengthy to-do list of frightening and uncomfortable adventures even though they each had less than a year to live.)


Now let me be clear about a few things. As far as “giving back” is concerned, a few hours a week shelving books at your local library or volunteering at the community hospital isn’t going to cut it.  In fact, anything short of single-handedly educating the female population of a small country or creating a new global food bank won’t even justify a line item on your new resume. And as for concerns about inadequate pay, no problem, you probably won’t get any at all.  Nor should you, considering all the psychic rewards you’ll be receiving (not to mention the psychic medical and dental benefits).


But take heart. You’re about to discover that your career opportunities did not end with your last job. Far from it, because these new challenges will create opportunities to fail that will surpass anything you’ve experienced over the last 30 years. You see, this time you will be expected to succeed in a completely new venture without the benefit of education, training or youthful energy. And you will be delighted to learn that your new bosses and co-workers, tikes only slightly younger than your own children, will consider you (and your decades of experience) about as welcome and relevant as smoking on airplanes and instant coffee.
“But not to worry,” I told my friend, “just let your true passion for your work carry you through. And if you’re not sure what that might be, I can tell you that many people at your time of life take up teaching. Maybe that’s something you can consider.”

photo portrait Alisa.jpg
Alisa Singer’s humorous essays have appeared in a variety of print and online newspapers and magazines across the country and in Canada.  You can learn more about her work by visiting her website: www.AlisaSinger.com or contacting her at ASingerAuthor@gmail.com.
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Brit’s Second Career: Philadelphia Occupation


By Linda L. Riley


What’s a British guy doing, giving tours of Philadelphia?

Andy Maunder’s “Awfully Nice Tours” are a long way from both his native London and his first career.  “I’d been 30 years in tech and software and running companies,” he said, and in 2007 he found himself asking “what now?”


“What” turned out to be a one-man personalized guide service to Philadelphia and its surroundings.

 

“It seemed to me there was a hole in the marketplace,” he said.”At one end you had Ride the Ducks and Big Bus, and at the other end, walking tours.” There were no guided driving tours, “only limo companies who will take you places but are not going to be a guide.”


He’s modeled his tours on a company in Rome he read about in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and tried out in summer 2006 with his wife and two daughters. “I phoned this guy who was in the article. He took us everywhere – the Vatican, the Caves, he found us the best spot for a vista of Rome.”


So, how do you set up as a tour guide? “I spent 2008 researching, and last summer I went on all the tours,” he said. Then he needed transportation. “You have to have a vehicle which is registered as a limousine, and insurance.” Prices range from $150 for a two-hour city tour for up to six people- to full-day tours for six at $395. If his six-seat van isn’t big enough, he will rent a larger vehicle and driver as needed, at additional cost.


Finally, he hung out his electronic “shingle,” creating and launching his website, www.awfullynicetours.com; and had a brochure printed up. And then he set about visiting all of the hotel concierges in center city to make them aware of this new touring option, hoping they will refer customers to him.


Maunder may not be a native, but he is an unabashed enthusiast for the charms and attractions of Philadelphia “I could tour the city of Philadelphia for days and not exhaust it.” Let him count the ways: “public art, with murals and statues, to gardens, open space, museums, cultural activities, neighborhoods,” he rattles off. And when he’s worked his magic for folks, “they say ‘I never knew this was such a grand city.’ Then I feel I’ve done my job.”


He offers all of the expected options – Philadelphia city tour, Valley Forge, Brandywine Valley and Amish country tours. He’s also open to suggestions, even while the tour is going on – and he can include many options that the Big Bus can’t, such as Fairmount Park, the River Rink and baseball games. “You do the basic sites, then you try to find out more.”


“A fellow from England found me on the web and said he wanted to do a “Rocky” tour. He sent a list of locations – Rocky’s apartment, the gym, the pet shop, Victor’s Café, and of course the Art Museum.” He’s  given that tour several times since.


Another time, three women came to him and wanted to tour Philadelphia’s places of worship. Thanks to William Penn’s “holy experiment” in of religious tolerance, there are many to choose among. The tour included an ecumenical cross-section, including the Arch Street Friends Meeting House, St. George’s United Methodist Church, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church and Christ Church. It’s now one of his regular tours.


He did his first tour on January 4, 2009 -- for a friend. Since then, he’s done almost 70 tours and hopes to double that next year. Clients have come from all over the globe – Russia, Finland, New Zealand.


As for why a Brit is giving guided tours to the birthplace of independence, he answers with a grin, “We’re here to take the city back.” But he's being awfully nice about it, this time around.


For more information, call: 215-280-3746 or email: info@awfullynicetours.com.

 

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Photographer is a man on a mission


By Marcia Z. Siegal  
When Raymond Holman, Jr.’s father was diagnosed with dementia 12 years ago, it changed both of their lives completely. “It came about suddenly. I needed to find someone to stay with him,” Holman recalls. A professional photographer, he is now on a mission to honor caregivers with his work, and so far has captured the faces of 58 family and professional caregivers. “They are special beings who are on to this planet to help people who cannot help themselves,” he says.



The portraits depict people of varying backgrounds and ethnicities, from all walks of life, all of whom are  caring for those with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia.  Accompanied by a short record of the caregiver’s story, Holman's portraits were displayed at the African American Museum in Philadelphia during the summer of 2008 in an exhibit entitled “The Raymond Holman, Jr. Caregivers Portrait Project.” Among those featured were Joan and Mae, the two women who helped the Holman family care for their father from 1997 until his death four years later.

 
In all that time, Joan and Mae never missed a day, Holman says. They worked in shifts altogether seeing to “Big Ray’s” care from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Raymond Holman Sr.’s children took over evenings and weekends. Joan and Mae helped with cooking, personal care, dispensing medication, medical appointments, and countless other tasks, and were vital to the older man’s support and comfort. If one of the women had an appointment during her regularly scheduled time, she would switch shifts. Often Joan would come back in the middle of the night on her own accord, to make sure “Big Ray” was okay, according to Holman.  “My father passed away peacefully in 2001 in his home, just as he would have wished,” he says.  “Because of these two women, he lived a lot better than he might have.”

 
Holman witnessed another remarkable caregiver in action in 2003, when WHYY- TV assigned him to photograph a man with dementia and his wife, who was his  primary caregiver, in connection with a series the station was running.  “When I saw them, I recognized that same love” he remarks. The woman’s  compassion and commitment in caring for her husband were “24/7.”  She had  many serious health problems herself, he remembers, “but she was always there to see to his needs.”

 
He returned on his own to document the couple’s struggles and their inspirational story. “I did this weekly for eight months; then it started to wear on me. In many ways, I was reliving the time of my father dying,” he says. 

 
Holman’s professional photography covers the gamut, from photojournalism to work for corporations and nonprofit organizations, and wedding and portrait photography. But the subject of caregivers has stayed with him. With support from WHYY, the Alzheimer’s Association of the Delaware Valley, and Philadelphia City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown’s office, he embarked on his portrait series for the African American Museum in 2007, dedicated to those “…who have placed their lives on a shelf, altered it dramatically, or taken on care giving as a career, whose biggest reward is finding joy in a smile, and peace in taking care of another.” 

 
“For years I wondered why I felt driven to change careers and become a professional photographer,” says Holman, who was employed in the banking industry prior to switching his vocation in 1989. “No one in my family had any experience with the arts.”

During the caregiver reception that accompanied the exhibit’s debut at the African American Museum, he says he found the answer.  “One of caregivers there came up to thank me for having the exhibit. He didn’t expect anything like this. He never thought he was special.  I realized then that I was destined to do this work — to bring attention to these special people, who often go unrecognized.”

Holman says he would like to complete 200 caregiver portraits and to mount more exhibits nationwide, funding permitted. With part of the proceeds generated by his previous caregiver exhibit, he has established the Raymond Holman, Sr. Fund with the Philadelphia Foundation. His  goal is to raise $1 million to provide respite for caregivers.  “They are extraordinary human beings,” he says, “and they need to take care of themselves.”

 
For more information, visit http://rholmanjrphoto.com or call 215-232-1221.
 
Photo caption: My father in his living room eating some food. In this picture he is bent over looking real weak. When my father was younger he weighted 225 and stood 6′4″. - Raymond W. Holman Jr.


Marcia Z. Siegal is public relations manager for Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. She has also written for the Jewish Exponent and Inside Magazine.


 

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"Seven Vignettes" for 60 Years


By Marcia Z. Siegal


“There’s an old saying that ‘Jazz can be learned but not taught,’” says composer and pianist Tom Lawton. “It’s something you learn by osmosis.” His absorption process began at age 19, when he first heard the music of jazz great John Coltrane. “It combined all the types of music I liked into one,” he remembers.

 
He’s honed his talent over more than thirty years, performing in venues ranging from the intimacy of jazz clubs and weddings to concert halls and jazz festivals; composing; and teaching at several area colleges.  


This year, he had the singular distinction of being chosen to compose a piece to honor the 60th anniversary of Philadelphia Senior Center, a member of the NewCourtland Network. “Tom is an inventive soloist with a vivid imagination,” said Robert Groves, chief executive officer of PSC.


His composition, “Seven Vignettes from Broad and Lombard” presents a medley of musical motifs ranging from Hebraic and gospel to Argentine tango. Lawton says  the piece aims to capture the essence of PSC and celebrate its members’ lives, through the language of music. Written for piano, string bass, and drums, “Seven Vignettes from Broad and Lombard” consists of a prologue and seven distinct pieces, inspired by the people Lawton met at PSC and “filtered through a jazz lens,” he says.

 
In preparation for composing the piece, Lawton made several visits to PSC’s Broad and Lombard site to immerse himself in the spirit of the center and interview its members about their lives and the music that figured so prominently in their experiences.

 
“I found it to be a place where very active seniors come for all types of activities. It’s a city within the city, with an amazing diversity of experiences and backgrounds,”  he says.

 
The composer found himself pleasantly surprised by how forthcoming his interviewees were.  Among those he met were a self-proclaimed “tango junkie,” who “went to a lesson and fell in love” with this highly stylized dance form; a prolific painter, whose abstract, wild painting entitled “Darwin” proved inspirational to him; and a now-retired jazz musician, who   “wanted to be a drummer before I knew what a drum was” and got his start playing on tin cans and buckets.

 
The premier of  “Seven Vignettes from Broad and Lombard” was held at PSC on September 22, followed by a performance on October 16 at PSC’s 60th Anniversary Gala. Lawton anticipates performing at other senior centers and for the general public at jazz clubs and other venues. 
 
 
Some may say the golden age of jazz is long past, but Lawton doesn’t see it that way – “not in the circles I travel.”  Lawton finds there is a tremendous amount of activity going on, both “high profile and under-the-radar.  It’s a very vibrant scene,” he says.
 
***
The PSC anniversary music project was made possible by a grant from the American Composers Forum (“ACF”), through its Community Partners Program, with funding from the William Penn Foundation. For more information about the CD “Seven Vignettes at Broad and Lombard,” contact PSC at 215-546-5879 or visit http://www.philaseniorcenter.org


Marcia Z. Siegal is public relations manager for Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. She has also written for the Jewish Exponent and Inside Magazine.

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Cynic finds serenity


By Joe Clark

How's this for a mid-life career change?

"I went from a smoking, drinking, cynical crime reporter to a healthy, optimistic, fit Yoga teacher."

That's exactly what Theresa Conroy did. She put down her note pad and picked up a yoga mat. Lost 50 pounds in the process, too. And also lost more than a few bucks in income.

"But I've never been happier," said Conroy, who left the newspaper business, after more than 25 years, to teach yoga to a variety of people, ranging from 100-year-old Henrietta, "who dozes in class," to
60-something Al, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, to a group of students at Philadelphia University.

Parkinson patients benefit

Conroy also teaches stress-relief and relaxation classes to medical staffs at retirement communities.
She even makes house calls.
Besides being a certified yoga instructor, Conroy is a certified yoga therapist and conducts the only class in the city for people with Parkinson's disease.
"I've never seen people benefit from yoga more quickly than Parkinson’s patients," said Conroy. "The difference in just one hour is astounding."
Some of her older "students" also suffer from multiple sclerosis, severe arthritis and high blood pressure, or are visually impaired, deaf or in wheelchairs.

Had to kick smoking habit
A smoker for 20 years, Conroy decided to kick the habit, but it wasn't easy. "I was a nervous wreck," she recalled. "I was uptight, antsy, all that stuff." To relieve her anxiety, Conroy turned to yoga. "I knew it calmed you down, relaxed you. That was it."

She attended her first yoga class in 2000, thanks to a birthday gift certificate, from a niece/godchild, for one yoga session. Her husband bought Conroy a yoga-for-beginners tape. Then she started attending classes. "It changed my life," said Conroy.

At the time, the thought of leaving the newspaper business was the last thing on her mind. It had been all  she had ever wanted to do.

Always a 'newsy' kid
“When I was 12 years old, I walked into the kitchen and told my mother I wanted to be a newspaper reporter," said Conroy, who was born and raised in Manayunk. "I was always a newsy kid."
She landed her first newspaper job with a weekly newspaper while studying journalism at Temple University. Following graduation in 1984, she held a few jobs before joining the Daily News in 1995.
Conroy now lives in Roxborough with her husband, Don Russell (aka Joe Sixpack), a beer aficionado who has authored two books and writes a weekly column on the subject in the Philadelphia Daily News, where they had been fellow reporters (as was this writer).

A studio on The Ridge
Last year, after leaving the newspaper business, Conroy went into the yoga business. In addition to her house calls, one-on-one classes and group sessions at companies, Conroy
operates a studio — Yoga on the Ridge — in Roxborough.
But perhaps her most rewarding class is at Stapeley In Germantown, a retirement community where she conducts a weekly class for men ("yogis") and women ("yoginis") in their 70s and 80s.
"The room is packed," said Conroy, adding that many do their yoga in chairs and wheelchairs.

Joe Clark is a freelance writer who has worked as a general assignment reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.
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Help with job hunting


By Enid Rosenblatt

The economic downturn has changged the employment picture generally, and torpedoed many peoples' plans for retirement, forcing them to rethink their plans entirely. For job hunters over age 55, there are helpful resources available.


Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) funds two agencies that help find employment for Philadelphians 55 and over. 

The Mayor's Commission on Services to the Aging (215-686-8455) offers subsidized part-time positions in non-profit and public organizations to income-eligible applicants, helping them develop new skills if they have been out of the job market for a while.

They receive training in computer and clerical skills, and a job counselor in the Mayor's Office helps them develop an employment plan. It also offers job counseling and job search assistance, even if not eligible for placement with an agency. 

Career Solutions 55+ (215-560-5465, ext. 268), administered by JEVS, provides career counseling, help with writing a resumé and job interview skills.     

"Baby boomers are discovering that because of the rising cost of living, their retirement packages are not supporting their retirement plans as adequately as they had hoped," says RuthAnn Platt, a recruitment consultant at TAPFIN, a human capital management company with regional offices in Audubon. "They can't afford to retire and maintain the lifestyle they've become accustomed to."  

Platt offered tips to those looking to change jobs or change direction: 

*If you want to transfer from one executive-level position to another, speak to a career counselor.   
*Don't be intimidated about going back to school to learn new skills and to explore your options.
 

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