Employer Vita Needle Seeks Elderly Workers

Vita Needle Rosa Finnegan older workers

It's an era in which older workers do what they can to hide their age on their resume out of fear of age discrimination.

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But if you're applying to Vita Needle, the Needham, Mass.-based, needle manufacturer, the hiring managers would consider it an asset if you remember what it's like to use a typewriter or where you were when John F. Kennedy was shot. Older workers are "loyal," an exec says, noting that the company prefers hiring gray-haired workers.

Indeed, the median age of its 47-member staff is 74 years old, according to a report by the AARP. The company is even willing to employ workers who have entered their second century, counting 100-year old Rosa Finnegan (pictured above) among its floor workers. And many of these older workers not only take needle orders, but they also do manual work like shipping packages.


More: Best Jobs If You're Over 55


Their employment is in step with Americans who are past retirement age staying in the workforce in greater numbers, as the financial crisis has led to layoffs and gutted many workers' 401(k) plans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the over-65 workforce is projected to grow 64 percent, to 12 million, by 2020. That means 7.4 percent of the workforce will be past age 65, more than double what it was in 2000, according to The Boston Globe. But unemployment among the over-55 set is high; about 55 percent of jobless seniors have been without work for more than six months, according to government figures.

The Hartman family, now into its fifth generation of running the business they founded in 1932, considers its senior citizen workforce a major reason for its success.

"The older workers are loyal; many have worked here 10 to 15 years and feel a sense of community. They also feel pride that their finished product is often used in medical applications that can save someone's life or make it better," Frederick Hartman II, the company's 29-year-old director of marketing and engineering, told the AARP Bulletin. Frederick represents the fifth generation of Hartmans working for the company.

He does concede his staff might not always be the most rapid on the job, but "quality of work compensates for slower speed. Attention to detail is also better. Damage to the company's reputation is hard to repair." His father, also named Frederick, and the company's president, has told The New York Times that the company's senior citizen workers are eligible for Medicare and work part-time, so therefore he saves on medical insurance. (The company declined an interview request from AOL Jobs.)


Vita Needle brings in gross sales of $11 million a year. And it does so working with equipment that is of a similar vintage as its workers. The factory, for instance, only offers manual drills, according to the Boston Globe.

Still, the company has demonstrated an ability to keep up with the demands of the market; Vita Needle shifted away from hypodermic needles when sales took a dive during the AIDS crisis, and moved into production of tubing, lab instrument parts and firefighter equipment, among other products.

The company says the practice of hiring older workers took off in the '80s when there was a labor shortage, so Vita Needle turned to older workers for part-time help.

Indeed, it's the rare workplace that can celebrate one of its workers turning 100 years old on the job.

But just this past year, the factory marked Finnegan's hitting the century mark by rolling out a cake onto the factory floor.

"I'd rather be here than almost anywhere," she told the Christian Science Monitor. "You feel like you're still a worthwhile person, even though you're old -- [you're] not sitting in a rocking chair."



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Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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Mystery

It's all so true ! Dutchiero7, another commenter said it all perfectly. Their cell phones are not buzzing and beeping, they can hear because they don't have music via ear plugs, blue tooth's hidden under their hair, you don't have to see their midrift because their blouse is too short for the fashion, Their sneakers don't light up when they walk, above all they are not "humming" rap music, If they work in a drive through you can understand them because if they were from another country they have lost that accent. Sure wish they would replace the workers from India who answer calls for certain call centers and you have not a clue what they are saying. Nothing worse than to get an order taker from McDonalds or Burger King who starts off by saying......."would you like to try our double meat, whatever............in such a thick accident your manage to order a coke and a package of French fries and leave, still hungry. They are not hiding under a stairwell with another employee fondling each other, The ony reason they may be a bit late is because they walk slow. They have great command of the English language, every other word is not f this and f that. Their hair is one color, not highlighted with oranges, pinks, green,and blue. Snot is not caught in their nostril from the pierced nose, the only thing metal near their mouth is thier dentures, no pierced lips. They have no lisp because their tongue is not pierced. They don't call in sick because their children are home with a cold or the school bus is late. You are not exposed to their cleavage because it would start at their navel, (the law of gravity as you get older). They are not high from pot or other drugs, maybe a valium now and then but who cares. You are not introduced to their babies daddy. There names are Ethel, Fred, Tom and Jerry, not Natashatima or Crackhead.
They are the new society, probably with no rap sheets, don't call each other "Bro" and the mens pants are at the hips, not the belt around the knees. The older generation walks better than the younger because their pants are where they should be and you don't see the Fruit of the Loom label. Oh yes, such an improvement.
Mc Donalds hires older workers and when you leave they did not forget a napkin, straw, the order is right and if the cash register broke they could make change by calculating in their head and the drawer would be correct. The hamburger is not half off the bun, they smile, say thank you and really mean it. Oh yes, I could still go on and on on about the assets of hiring the "old timers", many who don't need to work, just have something to do, people to meet, and smiles to share. The only thing I recommend is that maybe they should not operate a fork lift or work in a hospital and expected to perform CPR. Other than that, go for it. Bless the older generation !

September 08 2012 at 9:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dutchieo7

WONDERFUL & AMAZING!!! I love to read this type of news & COMMEND the owners for using the older
generation who know how to work; know how to DRESS; & don't have those d.m cell phones to their face
all the time!
THANK YOU VITA NEEDLE!!!!

September 07 2012 at 12:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alycemd

Great Job, Vintage Needles! How about the rest of our Nation's employers doing the same thing.

September 07 2012 at 2:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Feliz Navidaddy

What a precious lady.

September 07 2012 at 1:57 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Vickie

KUDOS TO A COMPANY WHO APPRECIATE Vintage employees!

September 07 2012 at 1:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Brian Workman

I wish the Democrats would stop out sourcing to foreign country's!

September 07 2012 at 12:49 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Brian Workman's comment
alycemd

I could have sworn that was the GOP.

September 07 2012 at 2:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Brian Workman

Thank You Rosa Finnegan for being a true American!

September 07 2012 at 12:47 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jhgfbkk

Employers could learn some very important things from this company.

September 07 2012 at 12:44 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
dedndogyrs

This is how old the republicans want us to be to collect Social Security.

September 07 2012 at 12:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MICHAEL

oh, and just an F.Y.I. alliance ins. of germany gave hartford a huge amount of money to get thru the 08-09 crisis. alliance ins. company was the ins. company that insured the german gas chambers and equipment that made them function. i found this rather interesting considering AARP does ALL of its bussiness with hartford. sort of poetic dont you think?

September 06 2012 at 11:56 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to MICHAEL's comment
alycemd

Do you really think the same people who are working there were even alive during WWII?

September 07 2012 at 2:18 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
alycemd

So you really think the same people working at Alliance Ins. Co. (yes, that's the correct use of capitalization) were even alive during WWII? I highly doubt it.

September 07 2012 at 2:19 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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