Mr. Nat has been working at Pitt County Dialysis for 37 years. He has a wide variety of responsibilities from driving delivery trucks to housekeeping.
At 89 years old, Nat Willoughby, “Mr. Nat,” as he is affectionately known, is the oldest FMCNA employee in the country. He gets up each morning and goes to work at 8:30 as a Ward Clerk at Pitt County Dialysis in Greenville, N.C. He’s worked for Fresenius Medical Care North America and our legacy companies for 37 years and he’s not retiring any time soon.
“You know, I like to have something to do and I need the money,” said Willoughby, who puts in a good 30 hours a week. “I don’t want to go retire and just sit right down. You don’t last long like that.”
Sheila Reynolds, Clinical Manager at Pitt County, calls Mr. Nat “our rock.”
“He’s always there to do whatever needs to be done,” she said. “He’s like the backbone of our clinic. And he’s always been.”
Thirty-seven years ago, Willoughby’s duties included housekeeping and some janitorial work. He used to drive the truck and help deliver machines and supplies to patients at home. Sometimes there would be snow in the winter and it was Mr. Nat who cleared the walkways and put down the salt. Now he prepares packets for the nurses, keeps the store room clean and does whatever else needs to be done.
“He’s always smiling,” said Reynolds. “He’ll pass me in the hallway and say, ‘Hey, Miss Sheila, you going to smile today?’ Having him with us says to the other employees that this company values its older employees.”
Keeping the store room clean is one of Mr. Nat’s jobs.
Increasingly companies are realizing the value that older employees can bring to the work force. It’s a growing trend, according to Kerry Hannon, contributor at Forbes .com, who cited a study that showed in 1990 employees 65 and older accounted for just 12.1 percent of the workforce, but that slice of the pie expanded to 16.1 percent by 2010.
Phillip Moeller of USNews.com reported that HR managers find older employees are generally more professional, with a strong work ethic and skills that include critical thinking, problem solving and written communication.
Those attributes are appreciated at FMCNA as well. By the end of 2013, there will be 246 employees age 70 or older in the company. FMCNA was recognized by Retirementjobs.com as a Certified Age Friendly Employer™ for 2013, reflecting what it characterized as the company’s “commitment to the age 50+ workforce.”
After Willoughby, the company’s second-oldest employee is Helen Louise Horsey, MSW, in Garden Grove, Calif.
“I’ve been a social worker for 57 years,” said the 82-year-old Horsey. A Maryland native who moved west nearly 30 years ago, she has been at the Garden Grove dialysis center for 12 years. “I’ve always felt this company was age-friendly. They don’t seem to mind my age.”
And despite the long history, it’s a job she still enjoys doing. “I like working in dialysis because you see the same patients and develop long-term relationships and that helps you to counsel and provide direction more effectively,” she said.
When it comes to the question of retirement, all she would say was, “I’m thinking about it.”
Reynolds, the Pitt County Clinical Manager, said the years of experience and wisdom that older employees contribute should not be under estimated. “Dialysis can be tough on employees,” she said, “and the older ones have done it before. They know. They help the younger ones walk through those tough times.”
Willoughby and Thelma, his wife of almost 50 years, live in Greenville, just a few miles from the clinic. “I live here in this city, but I’m a country boy, really,” he said, adding that he grew up in Winterville, a little town outside Greenville with fewer than 10,000 people today, but it has grown considerably since Willoughby was a youngster.
“Working at Fresenius is nothing but a blessing,” Willoughby said. “I thank the company for letting me stay here. I’ve been at jobs and I’ve seen it happen when you get to a certain age they put the pressure on you to go away. They treat me so good here. I’m still hanging in there.”
“I think about retirement,” Willoughby said. “I teased Miss Sheila one day and I told her I’m going to hang it up. Just go home and look at the wall. I’m not going to, but one of these days I know I’m going to have to.”