The City of Owasso is making strides to provide more opportunities for seniors to stay active and engaged in the community.
City officials launched a new entrepreneurship program, Encore Owasso, at the beginning of the New Year for retired professionals looking to return to the jobsite.
Encore Owasso — part of Workforce Owasso, a component of the City’s Economic Development Strategic Plan — is focused on reintroducing seniors into the workforce to reestablish relevancy and increase productivity for both retirees and businesses.
Economic Development Director Chelsea Levo Feary said she got the idea to carry out the program after seeing an uptick in the demographics of seniors in Owasso over the last several years.
Feary cited the latest U.S. Census data that reflects a 27 percent increase in the population of individuals 65 years and older in Owasso between 2010 and 2018. It also indicates that 13.5 percent of Owasso’s population is aged 65 and older as of 2019.
“They’re moving to Owasso because their kids and their grandkids are here,” Feary said, “and they found that we’re a good community to retire in, we have access to healthcare, there’s plenty of shopping, it’s a clean community, and No. 1, it’s a safe community.”
She recently formed a small board to brainstorm ideas and collaborate with the Owasso Community Center and other local retirement groups, as well as organizations like AARP, to identify the goals of the program.
“One of the things that we kept hearing was how they wanted some things to do,” Feary said, “whether that they were wanting to get involved on City boards and committees or that they were looking for part-time work, but they were wanting to engage in the community.”
The City plans to survey seniors and businesses over the next several months in an effort to gauge their interests and needs, which would allow staff to discover the reach of retirees across the region.
This would help identify individuals who are interested in either mentoring professionals in small businesses, seeking employment at local establishments or launching their own venture.
“We started to look at … reengaging them as far as putting their past wisdom and their experience professionally into situations where they can affect our existing businesses in a positive manner as well as increasing their quality of life.”
Once Feary and her team analyze the results of the survey, they intend to match those retirees with their respective outlets and begin the process of introducing them into the workforce. They also want to hold various forums and public meetings as the program moves forward.
“If there are really positive results that we get out of this, we want to be able to show other communities that this is a program that is so valuable and really taps into your existing community and really serves your citizens,” she said.