Program puts people back to work later in life

Dorothy Koch of Alexandria worked as a hairdresser, resort owner and secretary, but never did she think she'd end up working as a life enhancement specialist.

Dorothy Koch of Alexandria helps a resident get her dinner order into the kitchen at Knute Nelson care center last Thursday. Koch got her job at Knute Nelson through the Experience Works program, which helps connect workers ages 55 and older with jobs. (Amy Chaffins/Echo Press)

Dorothy Koch of Alexandria worked as a hairdresser, resort owner and secretary, but never did she think she’d end up working as a life enhancement specialist.

She re-entered the workforce a little later in life with the help of the Experience Works Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), which is designed specifically for low-income adults age 55 and older.
For the last year Koch has worked as a life enhancement specialist during the evenings at Knute Nelson care center – she helps with activities, transports residents to meals, reads to residents, leads informal discussions and helps during worship services.
“I learned that I really like older people,” she said. “I just really learned to love the residents and help them.”
Koch, 67, works about 10 hours per week. She also works about two hours per week at Nelson Gables assisting with activities.
SCSEP is a federal program that gives seniors the opportunity to receive the minimum wage while improving their job skills at senior centers, schools, and health and veterans facilities prior to transitioning into the workforce.
Koch’s first job with the SCSEP was with the American Red Cross. She worked at the local office doing clerical work. The computer skills she developed there helped her move into a job at the Experience Works state office in Alexandria where she helped other older workers, like herself, find a new career.
“It’s one of the best ways to get back into the workforce,” Koch said. “If you’re over 55 and at all nervous about going back into the workforce or if you’ve never worked or worked a little or you don’t have the education or you need some confidence, Experience Works helps.”
She said the organization will send participants to classes to create a resume, prepare for a job interview and more.


Experience Works is a national non-profit organization funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Labor, states, foundations, sponsorships and other contributions.
Experience Works was started as Green Thumb in 1965. It was a rural demonstration project that provided work for farmers.



An individual is eligible to be an Experience Works Senior Community Service Employment Program participant if they meet the following criteria:
• Age - Participant must be 55 years of age or older.
• Residence - Participant must be a resident of Minnesota.
• Income - Annual family income must not be more than 125 percent of federal poverty income guidelines.
• Work status - Participant’s eligibility to work in the U.S.
• Unemployed - Participants must be unemployed at time of enrollment. If they become employed while enrolled, they must exit the program.

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