Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Old doesn't mean useless

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — On a recent Saturday afternoon, John Toppel, a retired Hewlett-Packard sales manager, did not spend his leisure time golfing or mowing the lawn. He spent it at a local electronics store extolling the virtues of H.P. laptop computers to customers.

He was not paid by the store or by Hewlett-Packard, for that matter. Mr. Toppel, 62, left the technology company four years ago, but he remains a volunteer cheerleader for H.P., one of thousands of its retirees whom the company is trying to galvanize into an auxiliary army of senior marketers, good-will ambassadors and volunteer sales people. None of them get paid; they do it, they say, because of their affection for the company.

“I feel like I have two marriages: a wonderful marriage at home for 36 years and a wonderful marriage at H.P.,” Mr. Toppel said. “I guess that’s now a former marriage, but I still have strong feelings for it.”

Across the country, companies are making use of retirees as part-time or temporary workers. They are taking advantage of not only their expertise, but also their desire to stay involved and engaged with the world through work.

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