Try to do some contract work (Elance or Odesk). Apply for all jobs, even if they don't involve programming. You need to stay off the streets and with access to a computer no matter what so you can build your portfolio. Here are some tips for getting a job:
My mother, who is also in her 60's, went through a similar situation recently. I can share some of the job hunting advice I gave to her, as well as what I observed from her experience.
The age issue
Your mother is in a complicated situation. Being an older professional entails having some characteristics that many employers want to avoid. My mom told me that there were several instances when a prospective employer found out how old she was and immediately (but tactfully) stopped the hiring process. This was mostly with companies she was called in to interview with, which means that they reviewed her resumé, liked what they saw on paper, but slammed on the brakes once they found out how old she was.
I think most employers will consider the following when an older professional applies for an position:
- Flight risk. A person in his / her 60's is expected to be 1-5 years away from retirement. Why hire someone who may be around for only a year when you could hire someone younger who will likely be around longer?
- Cost. Someone with decades of experience will, more likely than not, expect a higher salary than someone just starting off in their career. Why hire someone expecting $50,000+ annually when you can hire someone fresh out of college for $30,000 - $50,000?
Despite the apparent age roadblock, my mom had a few key things working in her favor.
- Adaptability. Someone who has worked for the same company for decades is expected to be more set in their ways. The loyalty they showed to that 1 company may prove to be a detriment when applying for a new job with a different organization.
- She's an accountant with decades of experience, which means that her skill set is usually in demand regardless of the industry and regardless of economic conditions.
- She did not need to find a new job for primarily financial reasons. She was at retirement age at the time, and she simply wanted something to keep her occupied while having the added bonus of providing extra spending money.
Between her in-demand skill set and her relatively relaxed job parameters, she was able to find something acceptable within 6 months, which isn't too bad. I think that she would have found something considerably sooner if not for the age issue.
- She was open to part-time work.
If you also have these advantages working in your favor, then excellent. If not, then it will make an already difficult situation that much more challenging.
Resume and Cover Letter tips
Now that I gave you a warning of the roadblocks you will likely encounter as well, here are the resume tips that you actually asked for:
- First and foremost, know that resume writing is one of those things that doesn't have a single right answer. Different employers / hiring managers / HR professionals will have different criteria for applications they review. Some like 2+ page resumes, while many others won't consider anything that doesn't hook them in in the 1st page. Many want resumes to have traditional formats, while others might be impressed by more novel approaches (I read about this guy who wrote his resume on a beach ball). Some don't care about social media, while others require applicants to provide URLs to Linkedin profiles, or maybe even Facebook profiles.
- Anyway, with a resume, expect the need to try several different approaches. There is no "one size fits all" approach to writing a resume. Anyone who tells you that there is is either a genius at resume-writing, or they're full of crap.
- Custom-tailor a resume and cover letter to each job
- Doing your homework on any company you apply for can increase your chances of landing a job. Carefully read each job posting and identify what the employer is looking for (they usually lay all of it out right in front of you, in bullet points under "job responsibilities" and "employee requirements").
- The cover letter / cover e-mail should briefly explain why your mom fits the key requirements explained by the job posting. And the resume should also be written in such a way that it highlights what the job posting is asking for.
I once spoke with a veteran Human Resources professional who briefly explained how "resume scanners" work. These are programs that companies - especially the ones who may get 1,000+ application per each job posting - use to quickly scan through the digital resumes they're bombarded with and quickly whittle down the selection to a more manageable number.
What these programs do is scan each resume for certain key words. Only the resumes that have the required key words get through to actual, human eyes. The rest never get reviewed by a person.
This ties in to the importance of doing your homework, and why cover letters & resumes should be custom-written for each job posting. These keywords can often be found in the job posting. If, for example, the phrase "accounts receivable" or "project management experience" appears multiple times in a posting, it would be a good idea to include that phrase in both the cover letter and resume.
If a sentence says something like, "the ideal candidate would have X, Y, Z", then figuring out a way to incorporate X, Y, and Z into the cover letter and resume would be advisable.
There is way too much resume advice to give in a single comment. I highly recommend you do a web search for "resume writing help", "effective resumes", "resume examples", and also do the same searches for "cover letter".
And if you end up on the streets:
I spent the last 3-4 months living out of a motorcycle. It's really not that bad. Eventually, the lifestyle becomes almost comforting. (Quick shoutout to /r/Minimalism)
Food? Kabobs, man. Invest $4 in skewers, and learn how to build a fire (The US Army Survival Guide is excellent and free.) Go to a grocery store after 7PM, and you'll find all sorts of meat and veggies heavily discounted. You can eat pretty f'ing awesome for like $2/day. Stock up on dented cans of soup and chili when you find ones you like. Rice&beans is healthy, and dirt cheap (~$0.30/serving). Protein powder is really nice for something healthy, cheap, portable, and zero cooking. Those MIO water 'enhancers' are pretty awesome (personally, I think the walmart Great Value versions taste better).
Hygiene? Get a gym membership. Seriously, do it. Spend an hour there every day working out, and shower/shave/etc. too. Not only is that a good solution for staying clean, you'll be healthier. And seriously, keeping your hygiene up is damn important. Shave every day. Keep your breath nice. Keep your hair neatly trimmed. Keep your clothes clean. This is pretty much the difference between "hobo" and "down on your luck."
Social Life? Start going to church. Don't care if you're athiest. You can usually find one with free breakfast/lunch + other events with food. People are usually overly nice in church, and might be able to give you some place to stay. Lots of networking happens at church, probably your best chance at scoring a better job.
'Other' ? I don't know a damn thing about you... but if you're doing drugs, drinking, smoking... you already know you need to cut that out. I'm not one to really talk... but it still warrants being said.
Assistance? There's plenty of it out there for you. Specifically, for health care and food. Check with your state, I bet you qualify for a lot. Maybe housing, too.
Are you going to die? Fuck no.
Are you going to be miserable? Only if you want to be.
I'm rambling. If you, or anyone else, has any questions... reply, or PM me.
Keep trying and most of all, don't give up!