ROANOKE, Va. – A new study shows that seniors are having a positive impact on Virginia's economy.
Virginia ranked No. 12 in the U.S. in a seniorliving.org study that found a record number of Baby Boomers are in the workforce -- even past retirement.
Retirement is a word with little meaning to many Virginia seniors. Census data shows 31.5 percent are still out there in the workforce.
One of those is Navy veteran Michelle Haibon, who works as a program assistant through Goodwill’s senior community employment program.
"I used to look at people my age as in a rocking chair and not doing much. I'm that age now! I'm not in a rocking chair. I want to do a lot,” Haibon said.
The new study shows seniors caused a net economic loss in more than half of all states, but that's not the case in Virginia.
In fact, according to that same study, which used census data, almost half of all seniors in Virginia have a household income of $60,000 or more.
For Haibon, getting a job at age 59 was about much more than money.
“It has already changed my life,” Haibon said.
Haibon's now been 10 years sober, and although she is a veteran with job skills, it was tough for her to find a job. It was especially intimidating because of her age.
“I'm competing against a workforce that I could be mother to or a grandmother to, with skills I don't even know yet or haven't been exposed to,” Haibon said.
That's where goodwill's senior community service employment program came in.
Karen Jackson, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys senior companion program coordinator, said, last year they helped 481 people over the age 55 find employment.
"I think being valued and still being needed when you are older you feel like nobody needs me, I think makes them realize I can contribute. I'll bring in skills here and I'm worth doing this,” Jackson said.
Haibon, who will tell you is coming out of a dark past, now has something to wake up for and loves the job she's now been on for the past six weeks.
“I'm thrilled I'm here. And these people have made all of dreams come true that I had long given up on,” Haibon said.
An income to help her now and for one day when she does decide to retire, and a fresh start on life.
“That's what this place is, it's hope. I have a future today,” Haibon said.
The rankings were based on four factors:
- Income: Percentage of seniors with household income of $60,000 or more (national median):
- Virginia: 42%, ranked No. 8
- Employment: Percentage of seniors in the workforce:
- Virginia: 31.5%, ranked No. 17
- Health care: Percentage of seniors with Medicare coverage:
- Virginia: 55%, ranked No. 14
- Poverty: Percentage of seniors receiving SNAP or food stamps:
- Virginia: 11%, ranked No. 39