Older Workers: Discrimination vs. Need for Their Knowledge

Age discrimination in the workplace has long been a big concern–especially if you’re not getting any younger as time goes on, and obviously none of us is! Now, however, there seems to be a growing trend of people working longer and at least some companies being glad it’s happening. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, and it’s worth delving into.

Older Worker Discrimination Balanced by Need?

It’s possible that even companies that have been cavalier in the past about getting rid of older employees for a variety of reasons will now have to re-think their approach. I read an article in the Sept. 2015 AARP.org Bulletin, by T.R. Reid, titled “The Value of Older Workers.” Reid makes several points about the value of such workers, including a stronger work ethic and a resulting increase in productivity and economic output. However, he also says, “As the post-recession economy moves back toward full employment, many industries are finding it harder to fill jobs, particularly in skilled trades.”

And it isn’t only the skilled trades where older workers are needed or are already making a strong contribution. Professions such as nursing have been experiencing a “pinch” as trained and skilled healthcare professionals retire. Will this trend continue–possibly even increase–over the next several years? I certainly wouldn’t want to bet against it, and for many of my clients who are currently mid-to-late career, it could be just around the corner. If you’re in that situation, the trick might be to figure out just where your niche is in this new situation.

Resources for Older Workers…Or Those Who Want to Get Ahead of the Curve

Aside from commonly known resources online and offline, the AARP issue I mentioned above has a couple of online resources you might want to check out (for yourself or someone you know):

In addition, AARP has a new book coming out in November 2015 that might give you some ideas to think about. It’s definitely going on my “must have” list to buy, and I encourage you to look for Work Reimagined to see if it can help with your situation.

Multi-Generation Workplace

In the same AARP Bulletin issue, I read an article by Jo Ann Jenkins titled “Disrupting Work,” that talks about the changing face of the workplace today. Jenkins says, for example, “We’re beginning to see businesses and organizations with four generations working side by side….This requires young and old to develop a culture of learning and respect for what each brings to the work experience.”

What some people (individuals and companies) might see as a problem, Jenkins considers an opportunity to pull together the best from both older and younger workers. How you–and perhaps your company–view it is something to think about. You might not have the ability to influence your company’s actions, but you ought to be able to weigh your own and decide what actions are appropriate for you to take.

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