'It really is a good time of your life'

Seniors find second careers after retirement

Barb Sweet bsweet@thetelegram.com
Published on July 3, 2010
Paul Tobin and Ruth Foster are happily employed at Kent after retiring from earlier careers. They missed being around the public. Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

It's the busy summer home-improvement season at Kent in Mount Pearl and green-shirted employees Paul Tobin and Ruth Foster are smiling as they take it all in stride.

Working in the store is their second entry into the job market. And without mortgages to pay and families to raise, they're simply loving the work.

It's the busy summer home-improvement season at Kent in Mount Pearl and green-shirted employees Paul Tobin and Ruth Foster are smiling as they take it all in stride.

Working in the store is their second entry into the job market. And without mortgages to pay and families to raise, they're simply loving the work.

Both are retirees - Tobin taught for three decades at Gonzaga High School in St. John's and Foster, a one-time nursing assistant at the Waterford Hospital until staying home with her son for several years, went on to retire as deli manager after a 20-year career at Dominion.

They list several greying colleagues who re-entered the workforce after careers in teaching, policing, military and prison security.

"I just missed the people. Everybody has to eat, so you see so many people go through the supermarket. Then all of a sudden you see nobody," Foster explained.

She lasted eight months in retirement before applying to Kent on a whim and didn't care whether she got a call or not.

When she came home from the interview, her husband asked her how it went.

"Well, I start Monday," she told him.

That was six years ago.

"I never worked in this atmosphere before - this lumber and building supplies. But you just see so many people you knew from your other jobs and it's just really enjoyable. It was only going to be a couple months, just to try it. I didn't think I would stay," said Foster, who lives in Mount Pearl.

Both say their spouses - Tobin's wife Dianne and Foster's husband, John, knew they needed to be out dealing with the public

Foster works part-time and Tobin, full time.

Tobin, a St. John's east-ender, decided to retire from teaching to give younger people a shot - getting a permanent job right after graduation is unheard of now, he said.

"I had 30 fabulous years. I started with a smile on my face and I left with a smile on my face," he said.

He retired in June seven years ago and went to work at Kent that September.

"I looked at it, and to go from what I was doing - teaching, say, 200-250 kids a day - to nothing just wasn't an option. To me, I needed to do something to have that social contact," Tobin said.

Both say the camaraderie at the store is fantastic and the company is understanding of their schedules or when they have family emergencies.

Tobin, who taught science, works in the paint department and is thrilled when he gets someone to train in because it brings back the teacher in him.

Foster is a floater - working all over the store.

She said the job keeps her young.

"It's just a way of thinking - you don't feel 60," she said.

"You don't look a day over 45," Tobin tells her, nodding in agreement.

They both say there is satisfaction in working when the financial pressures of life are dealt with. The extra money funds travel and visits with family.

"It really is a good time of your life," Tobin said.

"Now we are in position, if someone was giving us a really hard time - which I don't think will ever happen here - or you just got fed up with it, you can just walk away from it," Foster said.

But she pointed out not all seniors have the luxury of working just because they want to.

"There are two sides of seniors working," she said.

"You hear a lot of talk of some seniors - especially if their pensions weren't indexed or anything - who are working to survive. There are seniors after working that are not even well enough to work. But what choice do they have?"

"Thank God we are not caught in that dilemma," added Tobin.

Stew Valcour, general manager of Kent Building Supplies, said his operation is getting more and more ex-military, ex-Bell Aliant and ex-teaching professionals.

"They are all pretty young and active, even though for whatever reason they have chosen to retire," Valcour said in a phone interview.

"Sitting at home and playing golf is not what they want to do. It's great for them, hopefully, and it's great for us."

Valcour said the retirees have worked on their own homes over their lives, doing repairs and projects. They enjoy sharing that knowledge with younger homeowners.

He also said the retirees are great mentors for younger employees. And the retirees are flexible in the hours they will work.

"Not everyone wants the weekend off or every evening off," he said.

He agreed Kent tries to work around their schedules. For example, he noted a Truro, N.S., employee who goes to Florida every winter and works the summers at Kent, which has its busiest season from April to November.

As for the retirees' work ethic, Valcour describes it as "tremendous, tremendous."

They also tend to be in pretty good shape as they accumulate a lot of kilometres traversing the store every day, Valcour noted.

"They do a great job for us," says Mount Pearl manager Lisa Anderson of the retirees she employs. They come with the added bonus of career and life experience to draw from.

"They are here because they want to be here. And they have so many great abilities," she said.

Retail isn't the only option for seniors.

Mask Security Inc. employs several people who are retired, says operations manager Lawrence Howse.

"They come in and tell me they are retired, have been out of work for awhile and want something to do," Howse said of the older employees.

"They enjoy being out and talking to the public."

Older workers, he said, have something to offer employers - maturity, reliability and a strong work ethic.

Howse said he would employ workers 19 to 90 - age isn't a factor.

Some of the older workers are doing it to pass the time. Others want extra income, or even tuck their pay away for vacation money.

At Mask, they do security work, or flagging for construction sites.

They come from former careers as city workers, retired teachers, government employees, "all walks of life," said Howse.

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