WASHINGTON – June Saint, of Pine Mountain, Ga., tried retirement after decades as a nurse. It didn’t fit.
Saint said she enjoyed gardening, traveling and spending more time with her grandchildren, but knew she needed to work when she caught herself sighing and staring out the window.
"I was bored," said the 69-year-old breast cancer survivor.
Saint and 52 other older workers from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were honored Wednesday in Washington by Experience Works, a national organization that provides job training and employment services for older Americans.
The nonprofit organization is the nation’s largest provider of employment services for seniors and works to remove barriers to employment and eliminate negative stereotypes about older workers.
"We want to make sure all talented Americans are utilized [in the workforce] regardless of age," said Cynthia Metzler, president and chief executive officer of Experience Works.
Metzler said 80 is the average age of the 53 older workers recognized this week.
R. Waldo McBurney, a 104-year-old entrepreneur from Quinter, Kan., was honored as the nation’s oldest worker Wednesday at a press conference as part of Experience Works’ Prime Time Awards Program.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., praised the role of older Americans in the nation’s workforce. He praised the centenarian for raising bees, writing a book and setting a state long-distance running record after the age of 70.
"Watch your diet, don’t forget to exercise and you need to think right, too," said McBurney about longevity.
His book, titled "My First 100 Years!" deals with the importance of not worrying too much and humility.
Columbus Hospice Inc., where Saint works as an admissions counselor, was also recognized as an outstanding employer of older Americans for its training and recruitment efforts.
Donna Morgan, director of patient care at Columbus Hospice, said older workers are pillars of strength for the people in hospice services.
"We sought older workers with more life experiences," Morgan said.
Morgan said end-of-life care is a special time in a person’s life. She said older workers are often better able to meet the needs of the person and their family. Most of the hospice’s print and TV employment ads feature older workers and about a third of the staff are age 50 or older.
Wanda Johnson, Saint’s immediate supervisor, praised her work ethic and said she’s never late to work despite commuting more than 60 miles each day.
"I wish young people would take notice and pick up on some of those type of values," Johnson said.
Saint became a registered nurse in 1985 and all three of her daughters are nurses. She and her youngest daughter earned their degree together at Troy University.
She’s worked at Columbus Hospice fore more than eight years and has no plans to give retirement another try.
"People will tell you, ‘You need to retire,"’ Saint said. "I don’t feel the need to yet."