We’re not too old! 5 Facts of an Older Worker

by Catherine Rickwood

Whilst some of us are keen to finish work and never go back, many others (including me) enjoy working and want to continue doing so beyond 55 or 65. Although we can feel discarded and made to question our relevance and value in organisations, older workers have lots to offer. Working also has health benefits. But why would anyone bother hiring an older person?

One of the fears I’ve heard muttered by people over 50 is that they would find themselves unemployed and then unable to get another job. It’s not a fear held by all, but it’s a commonly held belief, concern and reality, that getting a job when we’re older is more difficult because … well … we’re older.

According to one report, 20% of people over 45 years old have problems finding work because they are considered too old by employers. Yet, increasing the employment of people over 55 by just 5% would lead to a $48 billion impact on the Australian economy [source: Sydney Morning Herald].

Sadly, in 2012, Australia dropped from 11th to 13th place for participation by older people in the workforce among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. Australia also lags behind New Zealand with the employment of people between 55-64 years old (Australia: 61.5%; NZ: 74.4%). It’s not a good picture and should be a wake up call to corporate Australia. Older workers bring wisdom and experience to any company.

There’s 5 myths about employing older people [source: Human Rights Commission]:

  1. Mature age workers will cost the business more for their experience.
  2. Mature age workers may be prone to health problems.
  3. There is no long term benefit to training and developing mature age workers.
  4. Younger workers are better performers than mature age workers.
  5. Mature age workers won’t be able to adapt to changes and new technology.

It’s a grim picture. Fortunately, the Human Rights Commission has also identified the facts that counter all these arguments.  Here’s five of them:

  1. Workers aged over 55 are five times less likely to change jobs compared with workers aged 20-24, reducing ongoing recruitment and training costs.
  2. Mature workers deliver an average net benefit of $1,956 per year to their employer compared to the rest of the workforce – a result of increased retention, lower rates of absenteeism, decreased costs of recruitment and greater investment returns on training.
  3. Retention of mature age workers can help maintain corporate memory and save employers the cost of ‘re-inventing the wheel’.
  4. ABS data shows that Australians aged 55-64 are the fastest growing users of information technology.
  5. Based on current trends the working age population will grow by just 125,000 for the entire decade from 2020 to 2029 – less than a tenth of current pace. Consequently, businesses will need to invest in mature age workers.

There’s other reasons working beyond 55 is important …

Having purpose and meaning is essential to ageing well as Robert de Niro demonstrated in the movie ‘The Intern’. I wrote about it in an earlier post which you can read here. Of course there is also a positive impact on people’s superannuation and retirement savings when they are able to work for longer. There really is no excuse. Employers need to get onboard.

Are you an employer? Do you seek and hire older workers?

Are you seeking employment as an older person.  What’s your experience?

Tell me. I’d like to hear your story.


About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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