Over 30 years ago, a group of semi-retired skilled trades decided that there were others like them – experienced workers with plenty left to give. Having trouble finding regular work, they came together and formed an association to help others like themselves who were age 55 and older to get work. Over55 creates income opportunities for the older worker by taking requests for home repair/renovation services, and referring them out to its roster of Associate Members, composed of trades people. With services ranging from house keeping to handymen and licensed plumbers and electricians, the organization sustains itself with referral fees from its members.
Founded in 1986, Over55 has been through several rebirths. As one of London’s earliest social enterprises, the path has not always been easy or clear, but this social enterprise has managed to survive, rebrand and redefine both itself and its mission in order to improve employment and quality of life outcomes for Seniors age 55 plus.
In order to further its objectives, Over55 has developed new programs that truly blend its service offerings and mission objectives. This is best outlined with its most recent pilot project, Home Extend. Home Extend is a project targeted at keeping seniors in their home longer by providing renovations that increase energy efficiency, improve safety & accessibility, or other repairs that impact the suitability of the home for those that demonstrate financial need. By partnering with Pathways Skills Development, Over55 brings together the necessary resources and community stakeholders needed to execute such an innovative program. Home Extend does not simply employ trades people; it directs them to the goal of helping seniors stay in their homes longer. It is well known that keeping seniors in their homes longer can reduce costs for all levels of government, while improving their quality of life.
While Over55 is working with local stakeholders, such as Pathways Skills Development, the path to social enterprise has not always been a straight trajectory but a winding one. As this group navigates its social enterprise path, its resilience and ability to endure is a testament to its membership, volunteers, and leadership. Being a voice for the older worker will be a necessity as our society ages. Evidence shows that fewer and fewer seniors are actually retiring, rather they are working less. Some work out of necessity, others out of desire to stay active and connected. This desire to push back, or even eliminate retirement is not without its challenges; ageism and other misconceptions create significant barriers for the older worker’s ability to find employment.
Regardless of what the future holds, Over55 will continue to build on its history as a social enterprise rich in experience, reputation, and tradition.
For more information on Over55, contact Betty Blasdell, Executive Director, Over55London, (519) 438-1111, or check out our website at http://www.over55london.ca/