LONDON — When 89-year-old war veteran Joe Bartley placed an advertisement in his local paper in South Devon, England, last month looking for work he wasn’t expecting much.
“Senior citizen, 89, seeks employment in Paignton area. 20hrs+ per week. Still able to clean, light gardening, DIY and anything. I have references. Old soldier, airborne forces. Save me from dying of boredom!” the advert read.
He says his phone has been ringing off the hook ever since.
“I’ve been flabbergasted. When I put the advert in I thought, ‘Who is going to take any notice of a man seeking employment at age 89?'” Bartley told CNN over the phone.
Since Bartley took out advertisements in the Torquay Herald Express on November 16, and again a week later on November 23, he says he’s been on “telly” and “online,” interviewed by press as far afield as Sweden.
“I have a cleaner here once a week. When she came to clean the flat this week she asked for my autograph,” Bartley said, laughing.
Crucially for Bartley, who says he wants to find regular work so that he can pay his bills and not have to rely on housing benefits, he’s also been offered two jobs — one at a supermarket and another at a café — near his home.
“I get housing support, which is great, but I wanted to get a salary so I could pay my rent myself,” Bartley said. “Pay my own way, so I could feel like more of a man.”
Bartley was a member of the Air Force, and served in what was then known as Palestine, after World War II.
“I was in the 6th Airborne Division and worked as a wireless operator in Palestine, before it became the state of Israel. I was called up in 1945, in early May. I was 18,” he said.
Bartley, who served as a wireless operator between 1946 and 1948, re-enlisted in the army nine years later, serving under Royal Electrical Engineers in France and Germany.
“I was getting bored of civilian life,” Bartley said.
Bartley has lived alone in his flat since his wife Cassandra died nearly two years ago. “Once you walk into the flat, it’s like walking into solitary confinement,” Bartley said. “There’s no one to speak with.”
He has no children and is not in regular contact with his late wife’s family, but said the advertisement — and ensuing media attention — has reconnected him with a few old friends.
Although he hasn’t accepted any job offers yet, Bartley said he’s looking forward to getting out of the house and meeting new people.
Asked what advice he has for fellow retirees, Bartley said: “Don’t just sit there and be bored, try to do something about it.”