Redefining the Older Worker, Creating Age Diverse Workplaces

People are living longer, retiring later, and more than ever, exploring new ways to use their experiences to contribute to society. But even as our workforce grows older, negative feelings about aging are still prevalent in some workplaces.

An often not talked about subject, ageism plays a significant role in determining the success of a business’s work culture. Ageism, or age discrimination, is a bias against a person’s age and can take many different forms in professional settings.

Whether it’s disqualifying a person from a job interview or not considering an employee for an internal promotion because of their age, judging a person’s work performance based on age alone is not smart business.

It’s time we redefine what it means to be an older worker, recognize the value that comes with experience, and look at a person’s attributes over their age.

By changing the way we view age in the workplace and leveraging a diverse workforce, we can turn workplaces into highly productive and engaging institutions.

Age stereotypes in the workplace

In recent years, pop culture has celebrated aging professionals more than ever.

Sixty-nine year old Cover Girl spokesmodel May Musk graces giant ad campaigns, while 61-year-old Calvin Roberts pursues his dream of playing for the NBA. Car commercials such as Ford and Subaru feature the active lives of older adults. And senior YouTubers continue to inspire us through fitness, music, and art.

As a nation, we’re inspired by these senior celebrities. But what about the average older American? Do we believe in them the way we do the select few on television and magazines?

When it comes to how we picture our aging workforce, we could do better.

A great place to start is to think about some of the negative stereotypes that are associated with an aging workforce. Here are just a few myths about older workers and the facts that prove them wrong.

#1 Older workers cost more

Employers may be hesitant to higher older candidates because age is sometimes associated with higher employee expenses. While some costs may be slightly higher on average, such as a higher salary for a more experienced worker, the long-term outcomes of hiring based on age can cost you.

One of the largest expenses for a hiring department is recruitment. High employee turnover can spike costs due to the continuous recruitment, hiring, and training of new employees. Since older adults tend to have lower turnover rates, they can lower your annual recruitment costs.

#2 Older workers have a hard time learning new things

Older adults retain information longer and have higher training rates than their younger counterparts. Many older workers are also enthusiastic about learning new skills and being an active part of today’s workforce.

#3 Older workers are sick a lot

Statistics prove that older adults are less likely to call off than younger employees.

How much? The insurance firm RIAS reported that workers over 50 years old are half as likely to take a sick day compared to younger workers (age 20-30).

#4 Older workers can’t use computers

Even though a person may not have grown up in the digital age, that doesn’t they are not eager to learn all things tech. Older adults are one of the largest groups of technology users. Studies show that older workers can be just as tech-savvy as their younger coworkers.

Redefining the older workforce

We know that it makes sense to promote age diversity in the workplace. But how do we implement ways to prevent ageism?

It starts with how we view older workers. Be active about how you think of older adults in the workforce. When you hear others making negative comments about age in the workplace, don’t be afraid to speak up. You now have information on the value of an older worker. Use it to advocate for age-diverse workplaces.

Are you an older adult who has doubt about your place in the workforce? Consider finding ways to build your confidence.

If your job search is going cold and you think it has to do with how old you are, look for ways to make your age a positive attribute. During interviews, find other things to focus on – like your skills and experiences.

The more we talk about breaking the stigma of the older worker and the contributions aging adults bring to the table, the better we can create age diverse workplaces. As employers value things such as experience, communication, and ability over a person’s age, they tap into a whole new labor market that has yet to reach its full potential.

Are you an older adult struggling to break back into the workforce? VANTAGE Workforce Solutions provides paid, hands-on job training and opportunities to earn certifications in 38 Ohio counties. Contact us at 330-253-4597 or online to get started. Eligibility requirements apply.

This workforce product was funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. The product was created by the recipient and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department of Labor makes no guarantees, warranties, or assurances of any kind, express or implied, with respect to such information, including any information on linked sites and including, but not limited to, accuracy of the information or its completeness, timeliness, usefulness, adequacy, continued availability, or ownership. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it.

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