"The hardest time is at night, when the TV goes off and the lights go down and it's quiet and there's nothing else in my head," he said. "I have to think positively then, because otherwise the agony will come out in phone conversations."
Older employees are often wrongly perceived as being overqualified, overpriced, technologically challenged and inflexible, said Gene Burnard, publisher of the job-listing website Workforce50.com.
Some recruiters assume that because older applicants are vying for jobs that pay less than their previous positions, they'll jump ship as soon as the economy improves.
"In this market, it's twice as hard for older job seekers, because however desirable they were at 27, they just aren't as much at 54," said Greenberg of Jobs 4.0. "Recruiters don't give much of an opportunity to go into your life story. They give your resume two seconds."
Jeanne Feder has felt the sting despite a "resume that could choke a horse." At 59, she worries that she's past an unspoken cutoff age.
"I apply for jobs online with a description that exactly matches my resume, but the classic expression you hear when they see you is 'Oh gee, you're overqualified,' " she said. "That's job-speak for 'You're too old.' I've heard it 20 times in the past year."
Since 2006, she has worked at a marketing and PR agency. But with her son entering college, she said, she needs a higher income. Her expenses have risen dramatically, and she's depleted her savings to augment her salary.
She stays up late to shoot resumes to job boards. To boost her skills, she attended a grant-writing seminar and hopes that her volunteering leads to a job offer.
"I didn't plan for this," she said. "Lucky thing I'm tough."
Driven by people like Feder, senior job-search sites have boomed in popularity. RetirementJobs.com had 500,000 more unique visits in February than it did in August, while traffic to Jobs 4.0 doubled.
RetireeWorkforce.com traditionally has attracted older workers looking to make a few extra bucks working part-time or seasonal jobs. But with retirement savings hammered by the downturn, seniors looking for full-time posts have pushed traffic up 150% in six months.
Graying job seekers are flocking to technical and community colleges to improve their skills, experts said. Many are tapping reservoirs of discipline accumulated from decades in the workplace to keep themselves focused.
Since the start-up firm he worked for collapsed, Fallon has spent 60 hours a week job hunting. He wears a dress shirt and tie and carries business cards everywhere. He never turns off his BlackBerry. He checks his car's tank each night to be available to recruiters.
What he won't do is give up. His 401(k) is down 60% and his savings are running out.
"Maybe in a year I'll be too tired to do this," he said. "But right now I feel like I'm 39."
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Tips for job seekers over 50
UPDATE AND REJUVENATE
Spruce up your resume by keeping it short and emphasizing skills and achievements instead of the length of your experience.
Be aware of your health and appearance. Recruiters can sense depression and illness. And a look that is too stylish or too dowdy can ruin a first impression.
YOUR AGE IS NOT THE FOCUS
Don't distract yourself with suspicions of age discrimination -- just keep a positive, confident attitude.
Keep your college graduation dates off your resume, and avoid discussing activities that might date you.
If you seem overqualified, recruiters might make assumptions about how much you want to be paid. If a company wants 15 years of experience, trim descriptions of your 40-year career.
BUT USE YOUR AGE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Stress your loyalty and dedication to a company. Recruiters will contrast that against younger workers' tendency to hop between jobs and prioritize personal time over work engagements.
Seek out age-friendly employers with older employees and executives. AARP has a good list.
Stay wired by investing in a computer and a cellphone.
Learn core computer skills such as word processing, spreadsheet design and Internet searching.
Get an e-mail address and join networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
Sources: RetirementJobs.com, Times research