Job Hunting No Easy Chore as You Grow Older

Published in the Pawtucket Times, November 29, 2013

Last Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics brought bad news to over 57,000 job-less Rhode Islanders. According to the federal agency, Rhode Island’s unemployment rate of 9.2 percent is the nation’s second highest, followed by Nevada’s rate that is one percent higher. Compare this to 7.3 percent, the national jobless rate for that month.

When hearing about the Ocean State’s national distinction of having one of the highest unemployment rates among fifty states, Henry Rosenthal, an Oak Hill, Pawtucket resident since 1955, who has been unemployed for 16 months, called it a “real disgrace. The dismal statistics released only confirmed what the older job hunter personally knows from sending out hundreds of resumes, it’s an extremely tough job market.

Older Job Seeker Can’t Find Work

But, to make matters worse, 63-year-old Rosenthal, and other aging baby boomers, will bluntly tell you that age discrimination is derailing their efforts of finding meaningful work that pays a decent wage and benefits.

Even if you totally believe that your age keeps you from getting a job, it is not always easy to sue because it is tough to prove, says Rosenthal.

In April 2012, his Dallas-based employer downsized, which led to Rosenthal losing his sales job of selling loan origination software to banks. Throughout his 45 year employment career, he had a very stable employment record. He only recalls two other jobs that were lost due to his lack of seniority when corporate mergers occurred.

Rosenthal, a graduate of Temple University, had always been able to find a new position quickly when losing a job because of his “skill set and previous work experience,” he says.

But today things are different.

Rhode Island’s puttering economy has kept Rosenthal from easily landing a new position. In the few times he was able to get his foot in the door for an interview, he was told afterwards that he was “perfectly qualified” for the position, in some instances even over-qualified, but ultimately he received no job offer.

“I honestly believe that jobs have not been offered to me because of age,” charges Rosenthal, who believes that ”younger people who oversee the hiring tend to be intimated with the older job applicants and feel threatened.”

Although it is against federal law [The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967] to ask applicants how old they are, “it’s easy to figure out how old a person is,” notes Rosenthal. “By asking when you graduated high school and college a company can figure out your age,” he says.

It’s About Who You Know

During his ongoing job search, Rosenthal quickly realized that in many cases it might just take a personal relationship in a company to get an interview. With all of his previous employers based either across the nation or located all over the world, he has very few contacts with the local business community, he notes.

“Unless you get a direct reference or have a personal connection with a potential employer, they just might hire a younger applicant because they can pay less money or think they won’t take time off because of health issues,” he quips.

“Research findings will tell you that older workers are more responsible and loyal than their younger colleagues, and have a better work ethic, too,” Rosenthal is quick to say. Don’t believe that older workers take more time off then younger employees, he adds.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Rosenthal keeps plugging along sending out resumes hoping to reel in that full-time job. With being two years shy of age 65, he says, “I am just not interested in retiring because I don’t have enough hobbies or interests to keep me busy.”

Like many other long-term unemployed Rhode Islanders, Rosenthal just tries to keep the faith, realizing that “sooner or later something will turn up. To survive, “you don’t look backward you just look forward.”

What Some Polls Say

It seems that Rosenthal is not alone in his belief that age can make a job search more challenging to find full-time employment. According to an Associated Press-NORC Center poll results, detailed in “Working Longer: Older Americans’ Attitudes on Work and Retirement,” 55 percent of those 50 and over who searched for employment in the past five years viewed their search as difficult, and 43 percent thought employers were concerned about their age.

The poll found that 69 percent of the older job seekers reported few available jobs 63 percent say the jobs did not pay well, nor did they offer good benefits (53 percent). Around one-third of the respondents were told they were over qualified [like Rosenthal].

But the October 2013 poll also revealed that some employers do value older workers. Forty three percent of the older respondents seeking employment in the last five years say they encountered a high demand for their skills, and 31 percent say there was a high demand for their experiences.

According to the poll’s findings, “unemployed people aged 45 to 54 were out of work 45 weeks on average, those 55 to 64 were jobless for 57 weeks and those 65 and older an average of 51 weeks.”

Meanwhile, an AARP poll also released last month, found age discrimination “rampant” in New York City for those age 50 and over. The researchers found that when an aging baby boomer loses a job it may take them about 4 months longer than younger job seekers to find another one.

Forty eight percent of the survey respondents claim they either personally experienced age discrimination or witnessed it directed at a family member or friend who has turned fifty years old. Almost half of these respondents either personally or witnessed a person not being hired because of their age.

Increasing Your Odds of Finding Work

Kathy Aguiar, principal employment and training interviewer at West Warwick-based Network Rhode Island Career Center. agrees with Rosenthal’s personal observations and the above cited poll results that indicate that older job seekers can be blocked from gaining meaningful employment by age discrimination. However, Aguiar, who has 25 years of assisting Rhode Island’s unemployed get work, tells me that there are job hunting skills and techniques that you can use to increase your odds in finding that job.

“It’s not the 1980s and with a 9.3 percent unemployment rate you must change with the times,” urges Aguiar, stressing that the 80s way of writing a resume is totally outdated today.

If your resume is not formatted correctly, computer systems, called Applicant Tracking Systems, won’t identify you as a potential candidate, says Aguiar, who says that “75 percent of the applicants applying by internet will be thrown out of the selection process because of this problem.”

Applicant Tracking Systems will skip over employment history if you put that information under “career development” instead of “work experience,” on your resume, adds Aguiar. “Always put the company’s name first, followed by job title, and employment dates.”

Aguiar warns applicants not to save resumes as PDF files because Applicant Tracking Systems cannot read this documents. Save it on a word file, she recommends.

Today, one resume does not fit all, notes Aguiar. Especially in Rhode Island you have to target your resume to the position you are seeking. You have to revise your resume to the position you are seeking. .

A well-written resume combined with using Social Media, including Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter, and good networking skills can lead to a successful job search, adds Aguiar.

Finally, one of the best ways to get an interview and ultimately becoming gainfully employed is by finding someone within a company to be a personal reference. “Who you know is still important, especially in Rhode Island.” You may even get extra points when your resume is reviewed because of the internal reference, she says.

National polls tell us that ageism is running rampant in the employment sector. You can not deny its existence when you continue to hear stories from those age 50 and over unemployed family members, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, who tell you about their frustrating and very challenging experiences of seeking gainful employment.

Only in this country do we not value the wisdom and knowledge that our elders provide us. It is time for a change in our thinking and attitudes.

If an employer is worried about his bottom line, just consider hiring an older worker. You will most certainly will get the bang for your buck by bringing in an aging baby boomer who is loyal, dependable, and brings a skill set and life experience that most certainly will benefit your company. To me, it’s a no brainer.

Herb Weiss LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at


Sipping Cognac Signals an End of a Generation

Published in Pawtucket Times, November 15, 2013

On November 11, fewer aging World War II veterans attended ceremonies held throughout the country honoring them. With their medium age pegged at 92 years, many of these individuals known as the “Greatest Generation), are quickly becoming frail, their numbers dwindling as the years go by.

According to the Veteran’s Administration, our elder Word War II veterans are dying at a rate of just over 600 a day. This means there are approximately only 1.2 million veterans remaining out of the 16 million who served our nation in that war. By 2036, The National World War II Museum predicts there will be no living veterans of this global war that took place from 1939 to 1945, to recount their own personal experiences. When this happens there stories would only be told in some history books or by television documentaries.

The G.I. Generation, (coined the “The Greatest Generation” by nationally acclaimed journalist Tom Brokaw), grew in the Great Depression, and went on to fight World War II. Brokaw’s 1998 best seller, The Greatest Generation, put this generation, born between 1901 to 1924, firmly on the public’s radar screen.

Brokaw, a well-know American television journalist and author best known as the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, who now serves as a Special Correspondent for NBC News and works on documentaries for other news outlets, claims that this was “the greatest generation any society has ever produced.” He asserted that these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was just the “right thing to do.”

A Gathering to Remember

As with others of G.I Generation, old age and infirmity took its toll on the 80 members of the famed Doolittle Raiders. On Nov. 9, three of the remaining survivors gathered once more on Veterans Day weekend to honor their 76 fallen comrades-in-arms and made a final toast to them. While not related by blood, these surviving members (plus one not attending) had history that bound them tightly together.

At this invitation-only ceremony, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, the surviving three members of the famed Doolittle Raiders, Lt. Col. Richard Cole, 98, Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, 93, Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 92, coming as far away as Texas, Montana and Washington State, came to honor their 76 deceased bomber crew members.

Health issues would keep Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, a native of Ohio, from attending the ceremony. Hite watched the ceremony with his family members from Nashville, Tenn. Wearing the traditional dress for reunions, a blue blazer and gray pants and a Raider tie, Hite gave his own personal salute to his fallen brothers with a silver goblet a few days earlier

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Over seventy-one-years ago, sixteen U.S. Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell medium bombers, carrying 80 army air force volunteer, took off from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet, to bomb industrial and military site in Tokyo and four major cities in Japan. This was America’s first air raid on the Empire of Japan that took place 133 days after Pearl Harbor, the Doolittle Raiders bailed out or crash-landed their planes (that ran out of fuel) in China, and most were led to safety by Chinese villagers and soldiers. According to the Doolittle Raiders organization, over a quarter million Chinese men, women and children were killed by the Japanese for aiding the Raiders to escape.

Although the “psychological” air attack was in retaliation for the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, this top-secret mission, led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle, had an added benefit of boosting the sagging morale of the American public.

Meanwhile, due to the surprise attack on the Japanese homeland, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who planned the raid on Pearl Harbor, decided to save face by moving up his battle plans by eight months to attack Midway Island. American code breakers were able to give date and location of this planned attack allowing the U.S. Navy to move three carriers — U.S.S Hornet, U.S.S. Enterprise, and the U.S.S. Yorktown — to ambush Yamamoto’s naval force, ultimately sinking four Japanese carriers, destroying 350 airplanes.

Later on, the Tokyo raid was credited in turning the war around in the Pacific because of the devastating defeat of the Japanese at the Battle of Midway in June 1942… The Japanese military machine could not replace those carriers nor could it replace the trained pilots and mechanics lost in the naval battle.

The Final Toast

According to Tom Casey, Business Manager for the Doolittle Raiders, on Nov. 9, an estimated ten thousand spectators, many young children, and aging veterans, lined the streets on the military base waving American flags, waiting to meet the three Lincoln sedans carrying the three Raiders who came to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio.

After an afternoon memorial service with speeches and taps, a wreath was laid by the Doolittle Raider monument outside the museum as five B-25 bombers flew low over head in the famous missing man formation as a tribute. The Raiders made their last toast that evening to comrades who died in the air attack or since their mission, says Casey.

The original plan for the last toast called for the last two Raiders standing to break open the bottle of cognac, toasting each other and their departed members, stated Casey, who noted that this signify the end of the Doolittle Raider’s mission.

However, Casey remembers the two major changes were made last October at meeting in Washington, D.C. by the four surviving Raiders. Their first decision was to schedule their last public reunion in April 2013 at Fort Walton Beach Florida, the home of Eglin Air Force Base where the Raiders trained for their mission.

“They were also getting older, and travel was getting more difficult, so the second decision was made to not wait until there were only two standing members as initially planned, Casey recounts, stressing that it was important to bring together the five remaining Raiders together while they were physically able to meet to officially close their mission. Unfortunately, Major Thomas C. Griffin passed away weeks later. With the urging of General Hudson, Director of the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, with the agreement of the surviving members the last toast would be scheduled for November 2013 on Veterans Day.

At the evening ceremony, before attending family members of their deceased crew members, air force leadership, and other invitees, a historian read the names of all 80 Doolittle raiders, with the three surviving veterans calling out “here.”

Among the many speakers, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh told over 600 attendees, “As far as I’m concerned, this is the greatest professional honor I’ve ever had to speak here with this crowd at this event.”

Welsh admitted that first book he read as a youngster was Thirty Seconds over Tokyo. “It was given to me by my father, also a World War II vet, with the words that I should read it closely because this is this what America is all about. I’ve never forgotten those words,” he said.

“The Doolittle raiders have been celebrated in book and in journals … in magazines … in various papers. They’ve had buildings named after them … had streets named after them. People play them in movies,” Welsh added.

“They [the survivors] hate to hear this, but Jimmy Doolittle and his Raiders are truly lasting American heroes, but they are also Air Force heroes. They pioneered the concept of global strike … the idea that no target on earth is safe from American air power, states Welsh.

Concluding the emotional ceremony, Cole, representing his fellow Doolittle Raider survivors, opened the 1896 Cognac (denoting Doolittle’s birth year) and gave his final toast.

Casey notes that this bottle was presented to General Doolittle on his sixtieth birthday by a representative of the Hennessy Cognac Company. “That evening was the first time ever the bottle was taken out of its original box and shown to the public and displayed,” he said.

“Gentlemen, I propose a toast,” Cole told the remaining Doolittle Raiders. “To the gentlemen we lost on the mission and those who have passed away since. Thank you very much and may they rest in peace,” then he sipped the cognac from an engraved silver goblet.

The 80 silver goblets in the ceremony were presented to the Raiders in 1959 by the city of Tucson, Ariz. The Raiders’ names were engraved twice, the second upside-down. During the ceremony, white-gloved cadets presented the personal goblets to the three survivors, while their long-time manager poured the 117 year old cognac into the into the participants’ goblets. Those of the deceased were turned upside-down.

The four remaining members of the Doolittle Raiders will continue to keep their heroic tales alive by personally sharing their experiences. When the last cup is turned upside down, it will be their oral histories, history books or documentaries that will give us an impersonal small glimpse of what it took to answer the call to duty and to do that job well.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at

Concerts Support Health Care Initiative for R.I. Musicians

Published in Pawtucket Times, November 8, 2013

When Bruce McCrae (a.k.a. Rudy Cheeks), a member of legendary Rhode Island musical bands the “Fabulous Motels,” “The Young Adults” and “The Jackiebeat Orchestra,” left his full-time job in 2011, the sixty-one year old had the freedom to pursue his dream of creating a television series about Rhode Island’s music scene. But, the long-time musician, a highly regarded columnist who writes the Phillipe & Jorge’s Cool Cool World with sidekick Chip Young for the Providence Phoenix, left his employment with no health care coverage in place.

Throughout his career, Cheeks had health care insurance when he was employed by radio stations or at Insight, a nonprofit serving blind and visually impaired Rhode Islanders. Today, at age 63, Cheeks, who is Executive Producer and host for the TV show “Meet Me at the Met,” is among hundreds of Ocean State musicians who do not have health insurance (unless they are the lucky few provided coverage through a spouse’s coverage.)

Cheeks clearly understands the value of health insurance coverage. Three years ago, high blood pressure would put him in the intensive care unit at Rhode Island Hospital. Luckily he had health insurance at that time. But today, with no health insurance coverage he is forced to forgo medical treatment from a primary care physician even if he is sick.

Bringing Health Care to Musicians

In 2011, Cheeks and a group of local musicians banded together to found the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame (RIMHOF). Although the Pawtucket-based nonprofit is primarily dedicated to celebrating and honoring the legacy of Rhode Island musicians, educators and industry professionals, who have made significant contributions to both the local and national music scene, the Organization also decided to turn its attention to bringing health care and wellness options to those in the music scene, says Cheeks.

According to Cheeks, RIMHOF’s Tune In & Tune Up initiative came about because its Board members, along with many of the state’s musicians, were fed up with the lack of affordable health care options for those in the music community.

The Tune In & Tune Up (TI&TU) Rhode Island Musicians Health Awareness Initiative has already partnered with medical professionals such as Dr. Stephanie Hansen, psychologist, and Dr. Mark Andreozzi, ENT, who both serve on the advisory committee. They also support Dr. Zaheer A. Shah’s Access Basic Care (ABC) initiative and have already enrolled nine R.I. musicians in Shah’s membership health care program, some who had not had an annual physical for decades.

The ABC initiative waives a $15 charge for health visits when the patient presents their TI&TU membership card. RIMHOF is also looking into other well-run, inexpensive and effective health care programs to suggest to members, adds Cheeks.

As part of TI&TU, members will be eligible for discounts at area health and wellness retail locations and will receive free admission to a planned series of health-related forums geared specifically to musicians. Additionally, a web site focusing on the music community will be developed directing them to area health and wellness options and trying to make the topic of health care more understandable so they don’t just “tune out.”

To date, Cheeks and 100 people in the music industry have been issued TI&TU membership cards. RIMHOF anticipates another 200 to be signed up for and available by the Unity Concerts weekend.

In addition, TI&TU’s planned bi-monthly series of conversations/ workshops will focus on topics aimed at the music community, everything from carpal tunnel problems, to stage anxiety, to vocal health and more. The first of the series will feature Megan Hall, the Outreach and Education Lead at HealthsourceRI.

A Call for Action

According to a RIMHOF press release, during the nonprofit’s first induction ceremony in 2012, Hall of Fame inductee Ken Lyon mentioned from the stage that many musicians in the Ocean State do not have adequate health care and that it was an issue that concerned him greatly. He challenged the Hall of Fame to look into this important issue and that is exactly what happened as board member Don “D.C.” Culp started constructing what would eventually turn in to a grassroots movement spearheaded by several Hall of Fame board members.

Culp explains “I first brought up the idea of joining together some type of affordable health care with a health awareness information center. The idea was met with great enthusiasm but also a realization of the greatest obstacle to overcome – existing programs with very high monthly fees and/or high co-pays which make them far from affordable for most musicians.”

“Unfortunately,” RIMHOF chair Robert Billington says, “most in the music community make the hard decision to live without proper preventive health care, skipping routine annual exams and turning down medical services because they can’t afford them or are unwilling to pay their insurance’s high deductibles if they even have insurance. In effect, people are denying themselves basic primary care.”

Fellow RIMHOF board member and Tune In & Tune Up cofounder Russell Gusetti, who plays in Pendragon, one of Rhode Island’s most prominent Celtic band, adds, “It can be scary being a musician. Because we are independent contractors, we usually have no health insurance unless we are lucky enough to have a spouse who does. Because we don’t work for just one company, musicians have no benefits nor do we make much to begin with.”

Gusetti notes, “Too many of us have seen friends who are musicians go without health care of any kind, simply because they felt they could not afford it. So year after year, we end up holding benefit concerts for fellow musicians who have suffered major health events. And with musicians, if you are sick, you don’t play. And if you don’t play, you can’t earn a living let alone pay for health care visits or procedures. It made us want to do something to let the music community know that there ARE options out there for affordable health care and that prevention really IS the best medicine.”

Culp adds, “And we want to be clear – we are trying to reach the entire music community so that includes music professionals such as sound techs, studio engineers, roadies and more, as well as their spouses. We also want to stress that there is no paid staff or financial gain for RIMHOF or Tune In & Tune Up committee members. Our sole interest is helping our fellow musicians… it is straight from the heart.”

Gusetti concludes, “Instead of only reacting after a health problem becomes serious we hope we can, in some small way, inspire the music community to be proactive about their health so they can prevent or address some health problems before they get even worse. And if we become a model for the dance, visual arts and acting community, we would be thrilled as we all face similar situations and as parts of the creative community, we are all in this together.”

RIMHOF organizers say that the upcoming Unity Concerts idea builds off the March, 2013 CD release concerts held at The Ocean Mist by 2012 Hall of Fame inductees Roomful of Blues who chose to donate the proceeds of one of those concerts to the Tune In & Tune Up initiative which was just then getting off the ground. Ocean Mist owner Kevin Finnegan was so inspired by the idea that he suggested trying an even bigger benefit event with more bands later in the year.

The Unity Concerts Benefits Musicians

So, this weekend, RIMHOF, in partnership with The Wakefield-based Ocean Mist (895 Matunuck Beach Rd) will hold The Unity Concerts, with ALL proceeds benefiting the TI&TU Rhode Island Musicians Health Awareness Program, tomorrow, November 9, from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Sunday, November 10, from 2 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Participating bands, who are all donating their performances, represent an unprecedented array of R.I. talent teamed with the generous donation of the venue as well as concert support by The Ocean Mist. The weekend features four inductees to the R.I. Music Hall of Fame on the same stage for the first time – John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, Roomful of Blues, Ken Lyon, and Steve Smith & the Nakeds. In addition, participating bands include every musician member of the R.I. Music Hall of Fame board as well as two up-and-coming bands – Kim Petrarca and The Brian McKenzie Band – to further the Hall’s mission of also spotlighting new musical talent in the Ocean State while celebrating Rhode Island’s past and present music scene.

On Saturday, the lineup in order of appearance is: Adrienne West and the Tabers, Rossoni, The Brian McKenzie Band, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, The 100 Watt Suns, and The Rudy Cheeks Band.

Sunday’s lineup in order of appearance features: Kim Petrarca, Ken Lyon, The Zimmermen, Longshot VooDoo, Becky Chace, Mark Cutler, Pendragon, Roomful of Blues, Steve Smith & the Nakeds, and James Montgomery.

Cheeks gives credit to RIMHOF for getting the ball rolling on putting together an initiative to bring health care to Rhode Island musicians who are not covered. “You need a large organization [and vision] to take it on. I am glad they saw a problem and moved quickly to address it,” he says.

Admission to the Unity Concerts is only $20.00 per day or $35.00 for a weekend ticket. Etix can be purchased at or tickets can be purchased at the door. For a special room rate for the Unity Concerts call the Hampton Inn South Kingstown at 401/788-3500.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. Weiss is a board member of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. He can be reached at