updated 2/28/2005 7:21:30 PM ET 2005-03-01T00:21:30

The AARP launched an online service Monday designed to link workers aged 50 and older with job opportunities from a group of preselected employers — the latest in AARP's efforts to draw attention to the concerns of an aging work force.

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The program, which AARP calls its Workforce Initiative, centers on a Web site that highlights 13 employers, including information about their benefits programs, locations and work conditions. The site also allows members to link to the employers' Web sites for further information or to fill out job applications. Several of the selected employers are also staffing agencies that will attempt to link job searchers with their clients.

"It's easy to say, 'Yes, mature workers are a good thing,' but we wanted to make sure they were committed to making it work," said Emily Allen, assistant director for the Workforce Initiative. Allen wouldn't reveal how many employers applied to participate in the program, but said some applicants were turned down.

AARP, the nation's largest membership and advocacy group for people aged 50 and over, has made work force issues a priority in recent years. Concern has been spurred in large part by demographics: The first of the nation's 76 million baby boomers will turn 60 next year. By 2010, nearly one in every three workers will be at least 50, and the pool of replacement workers won't be large enough to fill their shoes when they retire, according to AARP.

The 13 employers involved in the AARP program are: Adecco SA, AlliedBarton Security Services, Borders Group Inc., Express Personnel Services, Johns Hopkins Health Systems, Kelly Services Inc., Manpower Inc., MetLife Inc., Pitney Bowes Inc., Principal Financial Group Inc., Home Depot Inc., Universal Health Services Inc. and Walgreen Co.

The idea for AARP's Workforce Initiative grew out of a partnership with Home Depot, which attempts to diversify its work force by linking with government agencies and nonprofits, like AARP. Home Depot's partnership with AARP was launched in February 2004, and the group was immediately inundated with calls from members, said Allen. Within one week, AARP also had contacts from about 20 employers who were interested in launching partnerships with AARP, similar to that with Home Depot, she said.

AARP started working on its program one week later, said Allen. "We were amazed by the interest," she said. "We are still averaging about 200 calls per week," from members asking about job opportunities, she said. AARP plans to add companies to the list of 13 partner companies, which can be found at www.aarp.org/featuredemployers. Another eight employers will be added around May, said Allen.

The success of the Home Depot program is hard to measure, since the company won't reveal how many jobs it's given to AARP members. Home Depot doesn't disclose hiring statistics about protected classes, said Cindy Milburn, senior director of staffing, in Atlanta.

AARP, however, said the program has benefited a good number of members who wanted to switch jobs or to come out of retirement. One reason older workers are drawn to Home Depot, said Allen, is that the company offers health benefits for part-time workers.

For Richard Keifer, health-care coverage for part-time work was the main attraction. The 64-year-old was officially retired and was struggling to pay his health insurance premiums, which cost roughly $647 a month. He applied for a job with Home Depot through AARP and was hired immediately for a sales position in Des Moines, Iowa.

Keifer took the job because he needed the money, but he also enjoys being back in the work force, he said, adding: "I don't have to sit on the rocking chair. I have something to do and I am a people person."

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