As the United States struggles with a high unemployment rate, many older Americans looking for work say it is especially difficult for them to find employment because of their age. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it takes unemployed people who are 55 and older longer to find work than younger people. But one company, recently started by a former teacher, is looking specifically for older female employees.
Finding child care can be stressful for many parents who do not have trusted relatives, especially grandmothers close by to help.
Anna Marie Caldwell did the next best thing. She rented a grandmother to care for her three girls when she is not home.
“She was part of the family; she was helping out cooking, cleaning; helping with homework; playing with the kids,” explained Caldwell.
She found Jane Mertes through Rent-A-Grandma.
For Mertes, caring for children is more than just a job.
“When you work with children, you have a responsibility and an obligation to make a difference in their lives," she said. "And maybe teach them something that their parents didn’t know or just a different perspective.”
Caldwell says it is that experience that sets this rented grandmother apart from a teenage babysitter.
“They bring a lot of knowledge to the table, a lot of experience and a lot of confidence in their decision making, and they’re not usually as distracted as say a teenager or someone could be,” Caldwell noted.
Rent-A-Grandma’s founder, Todd Pliss, says he got the idea for his company when he was teaching children in Hollywood.
“And I would hear these horror stories all the time like the sitter that almost burned down the house when she forgot there was dinner on the stove or the nanny that fell asleep and locked the kids outside the house,” Pliss recalled.
These stories prompted Pliss to start Rent-A-Grandma. Each grandmother goes through a background check and interview process. Beyond child care, Pliss’ company provides grandmas as pet sitters and caregivers for the elderly. The price is from $14 to more than $20 an hour. Pliss says he has been flooded with telephone calls from women who want to work.
“The economy is not good and I see that. And grandmas, sometimes I have them crying on the phone to me. We had a grandma who’s living in her car. The economy is terrible and a lot of these grandma’s can’t find work,” Pliss said.
Although the U.S. unemployment rate for people 55 years of age and older is lower than the national average, two million older Americans are unemployed. From teachers to lawyers, Pliss says 90 percent of the women who contact him for a job cannot find work. Many of them had been laid off after being employed by a company for decades.
"Whether people say it or not, there’s definitely age discrimination. Companies can’t officially say that. But I see it a lot because these women, a lot of them, are educated; they've got decades of experience -- not just in the nannying, childcare world, but in the real world,” Pliss added.
There has also been an overwhelming demand for these grandmothers. Even parents from Europe have contacted Pliss for a grandma. He says anyone from anywhere in the world can register on his website to be a Rent-A-Grandma, so parents worldwide can find a grandmother who works for them.