While many assume that older workers are less healthy, harder to retain and less enthusiastic than their younger counterparts, recent research reveals significant evidence to the contrary.

John S. Morgan, author of Getting a Job After 50, says insurance company data indicates that older workers use less sick leave on average than younger workers. He also reports that older workers are less likely to quit, and that they are not only as ambitious as younger workers, but they tend to have more realistic goals.

National demographics also dictate the need to consider older workers. According to the Census Bureau, the number of 20 to 34 year olds in the U.S. has declined by 6 million over the last decade, while the number of people over 50 has increased by 12 million.

Recognizing the potential contribution of older workers to the supermarket business, Christian Haub, President and CEO, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. (A&P), recently announced a corporate partnership with the National Council on Aging (NCOA), based in Washington, DC. James Firman, President & CEO, NCOA, welcomed A&P as the newest member to the organization's Corporate Partners for Workforce Development, which also includes CVS/pharmacy, Mellon Financial, Gap Inc., AT&T, Exxon/Mobil, Ames Department Stores and PNC Bank.

The announcement was made at the Woodcliff Lake Hilton to an audience that included representatives from various partner agencies that work with NOCA, including Urban League representatives from Bergen, Hudson and Passaic Counties; Community Planning and Advocacy Council of Camden County Human Resources Coalition; Puerto Rican Association for Human Development, Inc.; Atlantic-Cape May Career Centers; and the Workforce Investment Board.

"While this new partnership with NCOA is very exciting for A&P, it is not the first venture of this type for the Company. A successful program has been in place in our New York City Food Emporium Division for the last four years. The city's Department for the Aging set up a supermarket training center that mirrors a real Food Emporium - even the floors are the same color and pattern as the store. More than 150 people have completed the program and the retention rate for these associates is extremely high," Mr. Haub said

The Corporate partnership program permits applicants to apply through the NCOA or one of the partner agencies. The agency does the basic screening and then contacts the local A&P People Resources and Services (PRS) representative. This pre-screening helps PRS to identify candidates for the store managers, who ultimately make the hiring decisions. Once a candidate is hired, he or she receives up to 80 hours of training.

"This is a win/win situation for everyone involved," according to Bhavdeep Singh, Vice President, People Resources and Services for A&P. "Through this program, A&P is introduced to a new pool of potential employees, while NCOA and its partner agencies have the opportunity to channel their resources."

Employment has also become much more appealing for seniors since the government removed limits that penalized workers' Social Security payments if they earned more than a certain amount. In April, the government announced that workers aged 65 to 70 can keep their full Social Security benefits regardless of their earnings level.

A&P and the NOCA are currently developing a training center in Paterson, N.J. scheduled to open in September. Seniors hired through the center will train on A&P software and procedures, and then assume jobs in Northern New Jersey A&P stores.

Founded in 1859, A&P was one of the nation's first supermarket chains, and is today one of North America's 10 largest. The Company operates in 15 states, the District of Columbia and Ontario, Canada under the following trade names: A&P, Waldbaum's, Food Emporium, Super Foodmart, Super Fresh, Farmer Jack, Kohl's, Sav-A-Center, Dominion, The Barn Markets, Food Basics and Ultra Food & Drug.

Founded in 1950, The National Council on the Aging is a private, nonprofit association of organizations and individuals that promotes the dignity, self-determination, well-being, and contributions of older persons. NCOA members include senior centers, adult day service centers, senior housing, congregate-meal sites, faith congregations, and area agencies on aging. NCOA has helped develop many innovative programs such as Foster Grandparents and Meals on Wheels that serve the needs of older Americans and their families.