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Retirement Not For America's Oldest Worker

At first glance, the nattily attired older gentleman with the ramrod-straight posture could by any experienced executive at Zabin Industries.

January 31, 2001
At first glance, the nattily attiredolder gentleman with the ramrod-straight posture could be any experiencedexecutive at Zabin Industries in Los Angeles. But Robert (Robbie) Eisenberg ismuch more than that. At 102, he has been named America’s Oldest Worker by Green Thumb, the leading provider oftraining and employment opportunities for older workers.

    Like most people,Eisenberg tried retirement. Didn’t like it. For roughly 10 years, when he wasin his 70s, he traveled around the world, played golf and tennis, and enjoyedgame fishing. Those are the kinds of things most people dream about, but soonEisenberg was bored, and when he received a call to go back to work at Zabin asa consultant in 1979, he jumped at it.

    Zabin Industriesmanufactures and distributes zippers and notions for the garment industry, afield often thought of as a game for the young. It is a fast-paced businesswhere the demands and products change seasonally. It might be tempting to thinkthat Eisenberg, who was a cofounder of the business in 1954, was brought back asa figurehead, but he’s not about to be put on a pedestal. Alan Faiola,president of Zabin, says, “He wants to be treated as a friend, not an icon. Ifyou don’t let him be involved, it doesn’t make much difference. He’ll getinvolved.”

    As a young man,Eisenberg attended New York University and studied pre-med. Then came World WarI, and he was drafted into the Army. After his service, he entered the garmentbusiness, where he built his long career.

    Eisenberg has strongfeelings about the place of older workers in our society. “They can serve wellbeyond the ages they’re retired. Most of them have the ability to do it, andthe desire.

    “One deterioratesso quickly doing nothing,” he says, “and I call fishing and playing golfdoing nothing. You get bored with it.”

    Alan Faiola creditsEisenberg’s long, successful career to his attitude. “Here’s a guy whoalways looked to the future. That’s the thing that probably keeps him mentallysharp. He always talks about what’s going to happen, what lies ahead.

    I learned more aboutwhat Robbie did in the last 50 years from this award he receivedthan I ever learned from him.”

    Even at the age of102, Eisenberg is still looking ahead - and still has a great sense of humor.When asked how it feels to be the oldest worker in America, he replies, “Allright. I only hope I can continue to be!”

Workforce, February 2001, Vol80, No 2, p. 58  Subscribe Now!