Great Business Ideas: Hire Seniors as Employees

Great Ideas for your Small Business: Hire Seniors as Employees

One of the best salespeople i ever dealt with was a tiny woman in her late seventies. A few weeks before we moved into our beautiful, pre-war apartment, my husband, Joe, and I wandered into a suburban Westchester County lighting store, long shopping list in hand. We were immediately dazzled and baffled by the vast selection of fixtures.

Gratefully, we were met by a pixie. Barely five feet tall and smartly dressed, Ann introduced herself, clipboard in hand. I must admit I was surprised to see a woman of her age still working in sales.

But she was absolutely amazing. She quickly steered us around the store from the ceiling fan room to the chandelier department to the brass table lamp section and back to the sales counter. She answered all of our questions about quality, wattage, and installation, standing on tiptoe to reach the cords to illuminate the fixtures.

Ann knew everything there was to know about light fixtures. She spent more than an hour with us, writing up an order totaling hundreds of dollars—including the appropriate light bulbs.

Dealing with Ann reinforced my belief that experienced older people can be an incredible asset to your business. No matter what you do, consider hiring at least one senior worker, at least part-time. Seniors not only have a lifetime of experiences, but they also like flexible hours and probably won’t demand a fat paycheck.

One summer, when I was just starting my business, I had two great seniors working with me: my grandparents, Jean and George Coan. They were staying with my parents in the sleepy San Fernando Valley and feeling very bored when I showed up with a huge box of fan mail. At the time, I was offering a free resource guide, and we had received thou- sands of requests from my newspaper readers. I handed the mail over to them to open, sort, and stuff.

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I relied on my grandparents because I couldn’t afford to hire anyone to deal with the mail; plus, it was the perfect job for them. George got a kick out of reading the fan mail and questions from readers. Jean was content to slice open the piles of envelopes and be on the brochure-stuffing team.

For that same project, I recruited my now dearly departed Aunt Pearl Weissman. Although she was busy tutoring foreign-born students and volunteering at the local Democratic Party headquarters, she would make time to stuff a few hundred envelopes with brochures every week. I’d visit with her and my uncle Sam for a while, then return a few days later to pick up the finished work at their Santa Moni- ca apartment.

Consider how you can tap into the wisdom and skill of older workers. Don’t reject candidates because they have gray hair and wrinkles. Hire them.