Seniors coping with economic downturn

BRADENTON — Bill Dupont has worked his entire life in a variety of jobs from sales to courier services. He’s even worked as an armored guard.

Now at 58, the Bradenton man is just struggling to find a job to pay his bills.

When Dupont was laid off from his position of 16 years with a local surfacing company in early 2008, he wasn’t financially ready to retire. But he didn’t think it would take him long to land a new job.

Now he earns minimum wage as a part-time custodian as part of a federal employment program and his dreams of eventual retirement are slipping further and further away.

“At this point in my life, nothing is beneath my dignity,” Dupont said. “There’s just nothing else out there.”

The sputtering economy has thrown a wrench into retirement plans for many aging residents in the Manatee-Sarasota area.

There was a time when seniors in Southwest Florida could survive on small fixed-incomes garnered from Social Security or a pension. No more.The rising cost of housing, food and health care has more seniors looking for work, joining an unemployment rate in Manatee hovering at 10.2 percent.

Because many choosey employers favor applicants who are tech savvy, some seniors have instead been forced to lean on food and housing assistance programs.

“Unfortunately a lot of people are in this situation,” said Bob Yakubisin, area director for AARP’s Foundation WorkSearch, a job placement program for low-income seniors. “It’s a real challenge.”

Read the complete story at