working seniors
Officer Harris

Once upon a time, retiring meant the end of your working life. However, with so many seniors becoming part of the working stream, retirement is no longer the expectation, at least it should not be. Today’s seniors can work in just about any field they want to, and there are plenty of available jobs. 

There are also a multitude of reasons to work beyond retirement. For many, continuing to work opens doors to assist others in need. For others, working allows for sustaining socialization with old or new acquaintances. For people like me, it was to do one of my dream jobs with children while maintaining good mental health. Then, some may want to secure their financial future. Hey, some seniors are not ready to retire.

Some seniors have also read the same information I read in the AARP news magazine: the longer you wait to retire, the bigger your social security check will be. If you can still work up to or beyond seventy, why not?

So, why would employers who once rejected applications from seniors now be willing to hire them? According to the Department of Labor, older workers are more loyal. AARP explains that older workers have a better work ethic and tend to have a better attitude about their jobs. As a senior who hired case managers as the Clinical Services Coordinator for a mental health company, I can attest to that.

During interviews, I immediately realized that the older applicant had a better outlook on working as a case manager for mentally ill clients. Although I hired older and younger applicants, the seasoned applicants worked harder for clients and stayed longer.

Although senior and younger workers may have similar needs and motivations for job hunting, “Employment for seniors can be a genuinely positive experience.” A retired or near-retirement senior can find plenty of advantages to continue working. Below are just a few of them.

  1. A paycheck – One in five senior workers may be unable to retire due to financial issues. For financially stable people, having extra money could finance an around-the-world trip. 
  2. A longer life – Many jobs help older people stay active and engaged, which can have significant health benefits. 
  3. Sharper mental capacity – Working seniors feel that the advantage of working a job is that it keeps them mentally active. Research in the European Journal of Epidemiology suggests that remaining in the workforce may also delay the onset of dementia.
  4. Overall Enjoyment – A Merrill Lynch study showed 83 percent of seniors believe continuing to work made them feel younger.
  5. Social well-being – Continuing to work provides community and social contact for a population with an increasing issue of loneliness.

When I complete the last article about the senior population I work with, I will provide the kind of jobs available for seniors. However, let us get to Officer Harris.

When I started working as a substitute teacher, I thought about school shootings. Now that I am working at Hixson Elementary, I have not eradicated the thought; I think about it less. That is because of Officer Harris. He is constantly in view throughout the school, and that is comforting. When he is needed, he is always there. 

He loves the children, and they love him. Throughout the day, children give him hugs and high-fives. He is very kind to them. He does not represent a scary, big bad wolf. I am grateful for his service at our school. So, here is what you need to know about Stephen Harris, School Security Officer.

I was born in Alton, Illinois, to Barlow and Shirley Harris. I was approximately five years old when my parents divorced. Christmas was the only time I saw my father. Although he had a troubled past, he was a hard-working man. As a young adult in my 20s, we developed a relationship.

I lived with my mother after the divorce. East Alton, Illinois, was a place like those in poverty. However, she loved me very much. It was hard for her to be a single mother. The term it takes a village comes to mind. I spent most of my time with some neighbors and came to call them my family. When they relocated to Arkansas, I spent some time with them. 

My mother would move between their home and wherever she found a place. In Illinois, Arkansas, and Indiana, I attended numerous elementary schools. We shared a duplex with some neighbors who were friends with my mother. They sang gospel music. I grew up with their son, who was my age. They would let me travel with them and help set up equipment. 

Eventually, I lived with them for a few years during my early teen years. They then decided to start a home church instead of traveling. There I was. Serving others has always been my calling. When we had a temporary facility, I would set up and take down chairs, clean, and do any other needed tasks.  

Throughout my life, I have been married four times. As a result of my military service, my first three failed. During junior high school, I had a crush on my current wife, Shonie, a cheerleader. As a kid, the popular cheerleader scenario attracted me. 

I have two biological children and two bonus children. There are seven grandchildren in my family, one boy and six girls. Three girls are going on five years old, and two are going on two years old.  

I was still determining where I was going in life. Boys of my generation are interested in everything from soldiers to police to firefighters. When I was 17, I joined the Army Reserves and began working in the security industry while studying to become a police officer. I took a little longer to graduate from high school. I decided to attend college later in life. My first degree was in business administration, followed by a BS in business management and a master’s in human services. 

I have always felt a calling to serve others. It was a natural progression. I was a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Royal Ranger, and Explorer in my youth. I then joined the Army Reserves. I married my first wife while there. It was time to put my dream of Law Enforcement on hold and focus on security, so I joined the Navy. After 25 years of military service, I retired in 2009.  

I went straight into law enforcement after I retired from the military. During my time in the Navy, I was an auxiliary deputy. After retiring from the military, I worked as a Montgomery County, TN, jail deputy. As a patrol officer in numerous Police Departments in Illinois, I eventually became a detective sergeant.

After returning to Tennessee, I worked as a police officer at Chattanooga State University and as a POST-certified court officer for the County of Chattanooga. On weekends, I work for Walden Security as a Security Supervisor at Erlanger Hospital as a Student Safety Officer.

An officer I worked with at Chattanooga State College had started working for the Hamilton County Department of Education with a new program for School Safety Officers. Knowing me for some time, he thought I would be a good fit for the job. I took the leap of faith and came over once the position became available. I was brought to Hixson Elementary School by the grace of God. I love my job and will be at least 65 or older when I decide to retire.

I enjoy interacting with children at an age when I can make a difference in their lives—pleased to provide them with a positive male role model. Working with educators has also been an excellent opportunity for me. 

Getting an inside look at the education community is truly a blessing. While also opening my eyes, I hope to change some of their minds or viewpoints about Law Enforcement/Security personnel. Meeting so many wonderful people has been a fantastic experience. 

Some of these wonderful people had something to say.

Mrs. Hillery Johnson, our Vice Principal, stated. Officer Harris is a tremendous asset to Hixson Elementary.  He loves the students, staff, parents, and community.  The students also love to interact with him.  It brings joy to the school to see him positively impact many of the students’ lives.  Officer Harris takes his position as Student Security Officer at Hixson Elementary very seriously.  I appreciate him going above and beyond to protect everyone on our campus.

Mrs. Hays is the Special Education lead teacher in my class. Here is what she had to say about Officer Harris. She is in her sixth year as an educator at Hixson Elementary School and is proud to be a part of the Wildcat family. 

Officer Harris joined the Wildcat family several years ago. He has become essential for the safety of our school community. Officer Harris’ value at this school is unmeasurable. He is always on patrol and always ready and available when needed. His standard phrase is “Peace and Love,” which is genuine when you hear about his life journey. He always puts a smile on my face when I am stressed or just having a bad day with his jokes and smile. The kids feel safe with him and will go out of their way to hug or greet him. He makes the school a better place.

Student Security Officer Matt Agnew, a friend of Officer Harris’s, wanted to participate in this article. I have been in the public safety field for 17 years and am going on my 12th year as a military reservist. I first met Officer Harris in 2019 at Chattanooga State, where we worked together as police officers. I can say that Officer Harris is one of the most dedicated, reliable, diligent, and caring officers I have ever had the pleasure of serving with. Every day, he shows up early on his own time to ensure the school is secure for everyone to enter safely. His service to the school system and community is to be commended.

Officer Harris, I want you to know that your presence at the school makes me feel secure and safe. I am sure all of the teachers and students feel the same way. Thank you for all you do for us at the school.