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Retirement Is Not an Option

I loved working at a famous medical research institute in NYC for ten years. My work began as a lab administrator and evolved into a creative venture: The Patient Recruitment and Outreach Program. Several people and I brainstormed in the cafeteria on how we could provide patient recruitment services to our investigators for their clinical research studies. Ideas blossomed and a program was born. The volunteer population for research studies grew and my work segued into working with individual investigator studies, nurse practitioners, and best of all, study volunteers. I even had my own study approved (I am not a scientist) that dealt with compensating research volunteers for their participation. I was in heaven and believed I would stay with this project and help improve it when we received a large grant and never retire because I entered the work force in my fifties with no savings.

I was sixty-six years old when I realized that my hopes would not come true and that due to a number of issues, I had to make a decision to resign or be forced out. After six months of agonizing I decided it would be best for me to resign. I had several discussions with the HR Department of the University and it was “mutually” decided what I should say, in order to collect unemployment. The University was in agreement that they were supportive of my decision (the upper echelon of the hospital wanted me to go). This was an extremely painful time for me. My many friends threw me a wonderful farewell party, and I was very sad.

I had no idea the financial crisis was looming. I had not been able to join the University’s 401k until I had been employed there for two years and there was not very much in it, but I was hopeful to become re-employed quickly because my resume is a good one and there were several wonderful people who wanted to recommend me.

Nearly three years have passed, I had many interviews in the beginning, but as the financial crisis deepened, I received no call backs to my resume. Unemployment insurance payments and my social security monthly check have sustained me with occasional withdrawals from the small chunk of 401k money left.

What’s an unemployed senior citizen to do? Even applications for part-time jobs as a receptionist have not been answered. The answer to the above question is another question. What do I want to do? Since there is/was no offer of employment I dug into myself and realized that I had always helped friends and family research medical treatment plans, sort out insurance claims, and even accompany them on doctors’ visits. Aha, I can start my own healthcare consulting business!

This is what I have done during the last several months. I have a Web site and I have had a few clients who are very happy with the services I provide. I am trying to figure out how to market my business, other than word of mouth, in New York City. I love this work; I feel passionately that I provide essential services to people who otherwise might not know, for example, what questions to ask the doctor, or might not understand the answers. I give personalized service, and due to the thousands of potential volunteers I have worked with during my tenure at the University I am comfortable with people from all socio-economic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. I am charging a fee much lower than other consultants. Retirement is not an option for me and many other unemployed seniors. Entrepreneurship seems to be the way to go. Wish me luck!