BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — A number of individuals over the age of 55 are struggling to make ends meet, and these same individuals often find it difficult to find employment, but help is available.

The National Indian Council on the Aging’s Senior Community Service Employment Program is getting participants job ready and in the workforce.

Lynn Wise, the North Dakota Program Manager for the Senior Community Service Employment Program, or SCSEP, says poverty and loneliness are the two biggest challenges for many elderly individuals right now.

“They’re home sitting there depressed, need money, don’t know what to do. We can come in and help them, and I’ve just seen personalities go from one end of the spectrum to the other, and it’s really fun to watch that,” said Wise.

Lynn is talking about the NICOA SCSEP program, designed to train qualifying individuals over the age of 55 who may be struggling with barriers to employment to remain or re-enter the workforce.

“There are so many people that are over 55 that cannot get jobs. And the knowledge that they have is just unbelievable, and it’s basically just kind of going to waste,” Wise added.

Lynn says the barriers to finding employment vary from one individual to the next.

“There are just a lot of people who have disabilities, people that were formerly incarcerated, whose backgrounds prohibit them from getting jobs, and those are the type of people that the program helps the most. There are just people that are really struggling, and that need the money they want to get back into the workforce,” Wise said.

The program is designed to help each participant gain the skills they need to work.

Participants are also paid an hourly wage while they train, and the training wages do not affect SNAP or housing assistance.

A majority of participants need to sharpen their computer and technology skills, but they’re many reasons people join the program.

Cindy Haderlie retired from working in human resources, but she decided she wasn’t quite ready to fully retire emotionally, or financially.

“When I came up here, I didn’t even have Social Security yet. So I needed something to kind of subsidize my retirement. And it was perfect, it just worked out perfectly,” Haderlie said.

Lynn also participated in the program, for different reasons.

“I’ve gone through this myself when I switched over jobs. I was in a job for 20 years. And when I put my resume in, they looked at the dates and it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah,’ and you don’t even get a phone call. So I mean, I understand their struggle with age discrimination. And I’m not saying that it’s happening, but it is happening,” Wise said.

Cindy trained with several participating host agencies in Dickinson, including The Arc, public transit, human resources for the city, and even the police department.

“Every single place that I worked at, I had fun, I loved the supervisors, I loved the people I worked with, we had great crews everywhere that I went. And I learned some valuable techniques,” Haderlie added.

In addition to the techniques she learned, Cindy emphasizes how much fun she had working for host agencies, like The Arc.

“I got to dress dolls. And I mean, that was fun, because they sell toys, you know, and puzzles and games. I mean, everything you could imagine. So I got to touch every single book that came in” said Haderlie.

And Cindy has continued to nurture the relationships she made throughout training.

“You get to interact with individuals with people who are in the same situation that you might be in, then you can see the friendships form, but it also puts extra money in your pocket,” said Haderlie.

And once an individual finishes the necessary training, they work with a job developer and seek employment.

“It’s really fun to watch. And you just see that their whole lives almost changed. They blossom in some of these roles. And it just brings them out of the dark,” said Wise.

Lynn actually went on to work with the NICOA SCSCEP program, and she later hired Cindy.

A majority of the training is in computers and technology, and the NICOA SCSCEP partners with local colleges and universities to help train the participants.

The program is not limited to Native Americans or Indigenous communities and is open to all residents regardless of gender, mental or physical disability, or race.

The length of time an individual trains will vary, depending on the skills a participant needs and wants to learn, with a maximum of four years.