Vehadarta believes that older adults (over the age of 60) are a valuable asset to the Israeli economy, workforce and society; bearing with them decades of experience, motivation and professionalism. With ageism becoming a more frequent phenomenon in economies across the globe and life expectancy on the rise, unemployed and underemployed older adults, who are living in poverty, are becoming an unfortunate common reality.
In the 21st century, a person’s ability to contribute does not come to an end at the age of 60. On the contrary, it is at this age that we reach the peak of our experience and knowledge. Furthermore, research has indicated that continued employment provides older adults with a sense of significance and worth and has been found to contribute to their health and quality of life. Men and women over the age of 60 are a major asset to the workforce with potential that has yet to be tapped. They should not have to languish at the poverty level. However, studies indicate that poverty among this sector has been rising dramatically in recent years, with 22.7% of this population (186,700 individuals) earning an income lower than Israel’s poverty threshold. Thus, these older adults, who are able and willing to work for a living, are forced to rely on insufficient welfare stipends. Many find themselves in need of their children’s financial support, which greatly affects their social, financial and emotional wellbeing. In addition to the obvious social case, the business case for the need to tackle this issue is clear. Assuming that individuals whose earnings do not cross the poverty threshold are entitled to a variety of governmental and municipal stipends adding up to an average of NIS 5,000 per month, this market failure costs the Israeli economy a staggering NIS 11.2 billion.
This is a national need for which we developed the Experience Required model in response. The Government of Israel is currently partnering with the program. Through this model, we are able to preserve and re-integrate older adults within the workforce.
Vehadarta has been a leading and innovative force in the effort to facilitate workforce reintegration for unemployed andor underemployed older adults since 2009. We have focused our attention on older adults who are able and willing to work but, due to ageism, were left out of the workforce.
Vehadarta’s core mission is to alleviate poverty and increase quality of life amongst older adults in Israel by re-integrating them into the workforce. We also work tirelessly to counter ageism in the workforce by altering stereotypes concerning older adults’ vocational efficacy and showing the entire society that they are capable and viable employees. Our answer to this challenge is the Experience Required model. We have developed this model, through which we are able to preserve and re-integrate older adults within the workforce in order to facilitate a reality where salaried employment is a viable alternative for them.
The Experience Required model is comprised of three elements: the Placement Portal – an online platform for posting jobs and helping to place older adults, currently serving over 21,000 older adults and 3,500 employers; raising awareness – working with employers and the public in an effort to change attitudes and perceptions about their capabilities; and public activities – working with decision-makers in the public sector in the context of legislation and regulations with regard to developing infrastructures that support employment for adults.
Our main success indicator is placement rates. We aspire to have each participant placed in quality employment within 12 months from enrolling in the program. We aspire that the participants’ monthly average salary will stand at at least $2,000, and that 60% of our participants will retain their jobs after a period of six months.
Overall, Vehadarta is committed to making a significant difference in the quality of life of those often forgotten by society at large, and creating positive changes in the lives of older adults who need a boost envisioning a happier and more satisfying way of life. We have been able to find suitable employment for hundreds of older adults each year. We have thousands of employers in our network, who are becoming more and more eager to employ older adults. We have been recognized by the State of Israel as the main service provider in the field of older adult employment and we hold the Midot Seal of Effectiveness. In the past two years, the program has facilitated 1,000 successful quality job placements.
The Experience Required program has been so successful that it has expanded significantly in Israel. Beginning this year, we have begun sharing it with like-minded organizations across the globe, beginning with the local community in Broward County, Florida. Together with a local NGO, we are surveying the needs of the community’s older adults and are adapting our model accordingly. If Vehadarta wins the Matanel Prize, we would be able to identify and adapt our model to the needs of another underprivileged community in America. We would be happy to consult with the Foundation regarding the identity of that community and any other relevant organizations who we might partner with in this endeavor.
I am an entrepreneur by nature and my passion has always been to invent and create new projects. Following my retirement from the venture capital industry, I realized that the slow pace and lack of challenges of retirement does not suit me. I found amazing partners and co- founded ”Vehadarta –The Third Strength”, an NGO aimed at empowering older adults. Our vision at the inception stage was to enable older adults to continue their lives as active contributing members of the community regardless of age.
Following an in-depth process of understanding the needs and pains of older adults such as social isolation, need for meaningful activity and financial worries, we decided to focus on workforce integration. We realized that enabling older adults to work and create income addresses most of the issues and pains that are characteristic of this age group. I created a team, founded Darush Nisayon or “Experience Required,” a web-based project that creates a meeting between adults aged 60+ to employers.
The project gained the support of the Israeli Government and is now the leading project of its kind in Israel.
My main role today, as Director of Vehadarta, is to create new partnerships with business and government agencies that will help us grow and magnify our impact.