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Job hunting at age 63

I am 63, an age when one should be relishing simple pleasures like watching the sunset, or being a gym rat and joining all the zumba, yoga and belly-dancing classes. But I can’t afford to take it easy, not just yet.

I’d been getting a paycheck since I turned 21. My last employer’s bankruptcy ended that. But I must still eat, look presentable, keep a roof over my head, enjoy the occasional treat with friends, and, after a week’s work, a day of rest—things that make ordinary folks’ lives worth living. I need a job, preferably one with a regular living wage. The gig economy is not for mature workers like me. The kids can hustle. My years of work experience should be worth something.

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The Beatles sang, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me—when I’m 64?” There is no “you” in my future—only me, myself and I. Unmarried women, called spinsters in ancient times, have no husbands or children to lean on when the going gets rough. Often, there may be older women—ailing mothers, similarly unmarried spinster aunts—counting on us, too.

But we are a tough and hardy lot. Starting out, I looked for signposts promising a career path along the road ahead. Many twists and turns later, I am not ashamed to say that I must look to survive, but with self-respect and dignity intact. In Singapore, the elderly bus tables in the food courts. That may be humble and repetitive work, but I like to think it affords them a decent life and community, too.

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In a job queue, there is no community between me and the mostly millennial applicants, who are less than a third my age. Some ask disbelievingly:  “Mag-aapply din po kayo?” A thoughtless HR manager thought I was there to submit a proposal. After all, I graduated decades ago with an AB Journalism from the Philippines’ premiere state university.

Growing the layers of skin needed to withstand repeated rejections and to keep on going is painful in and of itself. I’ve been through the rounds of IQ and psychological tests, a Harrison Assessment, initial and final interviews. Once, I was even asked to write a speech.

Out of pocket, I’ve paid many times over for my official college transcript, clearances from the barangay, the police and the NBI, blood, urine and stool exams, only to have my hopes—that these many requirements were but the last stages before finally getting hired—dashed again and again.

I am not alone. Occasionally, I glimpse another face, creased like mine with the lines of care and laughter which a lifetime of living bring. Though our stories may differ, our hopes and prayers are the same: Let there be a place for those like us. Don’t let women like us become invisible. We’re still here. Give us a chance to truly be alive.

Yolanda Lelis Punsalan was the executive secretary to the chairman/president of a Chinese business concern for nearly three decades. When she works, she goes the extra mile. She is ready to take on the challenges of a whole new world.

 

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