Organization to aid older professionals


April 15, 1991|By Blair S. Walker

John Brain knows what it's like to be over 50 and looking for work. He's been there.

He remembers a sense of having been discarded by society, despite possessing marketable skills.

The experience galvanized Mr. Brain, 60, to form Fifty-Plus, a non-profit organization to assist out-of-work professionals 50 and older.

"The original issue was to create an organization that would address the problem of age discrimination in employment," said Mr. Brain, who teaches a public relations course at Towson State University. "In short, I think we have a youth-oriented culture, in comparison with most countries."

Fifty-Plus is in its formative stages and is operating out of Mr. Brain's Baltimore home until the organization has enough clients to move into an office. Once Fifty-Plus is up and running, its goal will be to find management positions for its clients, and help clients who would rather start their own businesses.

A former director of public relations for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Brain not long ago tried to get another management position in public relations. He failed, despite his background.

"I can only think that it's primarily because I'm 60 and nobody wants to hire somebody that old," Mr. Brain mused.

The workplace is filled with daunting obstacles for older people who find themselves conducting a job search.

For starters, "there's a question of retirement," Mr. Brain said. "The idea that someone may want to retire in five or 10 years is a big handicap. People say, 'Why should we invest a lot of money in training for someone who's going to retire?' "

In addition, health benefits for older employees tend to be more expensive than those for younger workers, some employers think older employees have unrealistically high salary hTC expectations and people generally shy from hiring people older than themselves, Mr. Brain said.

"What employers are interested in is competence and getting a good value in an employee, so we need to stress the positives -- like experience and dedication," Mr. Brain said.

Originally from London, Mr. Brain came to this country in 1958. In addition to teaching at Towson State, he runs his own public relations consulting business. For relaxation, he likes to write poetry and essays and enjoys flying gliders.

Fifty-Plus can be contacted by calling 433-3747.

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