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Debunking Myths on Ageism and the Aging Workforce

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The times are changing. As we age in the 21st century, we get to enjoy so much more opportunity and stimulation than what was available perhaps a generation ago. The status quo has changed in many aspects. Women are empowered to work for themselves if they so please, jobs are no longer limited based on a person’s gender, the retirement age has been pushed back, and the list goes on.

There has been significant progress in the way the world works. More people are enjoying longer, healthier lives, which allows them to work longer and keep on a path of fulfilling social engagement. Unfortunately, there still lies a significant concern for those looking to work as they age. A 2018 AARP survey found that 3 in 5 workers aged 45 and above feel their age limits their opportunities in the job market.

Age Discrimination

The truth is age discrimination is something that can happen in and out of the workplace. Those impacted the most by this are employees over 40 years old. It can manifest in something as simple as backhanded comments on missed opportunities, which can very quickly snowball and affect one’s employment. That includes judgment passed in pre-employment interviews, salary offers, promotions and raises, training opportunities, and layoffs.

With that said, here are some myths about older employees and the truth behind them.

Staying Sharp

Perhaps you’ve heard it time and again – you’re not as sharp as you used to be, or that it’s normal to struggle to remember things because of age. Contrary to this, older workers do possess valuable skills worth employing.

Older workers, on average, score significantly higher in crystallized intelligence. This refers to the verbal ability and acquired knowledge backed by their experience in the workforce. It’s an irreplaceable feat gained from years of trial and error, finding more efficient ways to work and solve problems in the field.

Open-Mindedness to Upskilling and Learning

Age cannot determine a person’s willingness to learn. While personality might be something to consider, one’s age should never affect a person’s ability to learn. It may take time granted that there may be a bit of a learning curve to get used to new procedures – it’s not impossible. All it takes is finding a suitable training method that a person will respond to positively.

If it might be about adjusting to technology, it’s important to note that most homes would have computers. An older generation would have more experience or at least have witnessed the development of technology in the last three decades. According to a 2019 AARP study, about 80% of Americans aged 50 and up actually have smartphones, while 90% use a computer to communicate with friends and family.

Getting Along With Others

As a company grows, more people are recruited. It’s likely that at some point, there would be far more younger workers in the company than seasoned employees. That doesn’t mean that the age difference should be something to worry about.

Age diversity can be quite beneficial to a workplace. It can double performance and productivity within the organization, given that more ideas and perspectives are taken into consideration. It can also promote innovation when there are a plethora of experiences shared.

What’s important to consider with a diverse group of people is establishing mutual respect by keeping communication open. Regardless of roles and skills, the more people can share how they are feeling over opinions and decisions, the less there is to fret over friction that might happen.

Higher Pay

Roles in the workplace will always vary. Salary offers should account for the market rate, skills, and experience that an employee brings to the table. A person’s age does not make a person’s salary higher. But, it’s their continued performance growth and the value they bring to a company. At the end of the day, it is all about fair pay.

Growing With an Aging Workforce

In the workplace, age is just a number. It should never limit a person’s capability to perform roles they are essentially fit for. The workforce will continue to change over time. It’s the one thing that remains ever constant. It’s important, however, that we are all able to establish a healthy perspective on working with mature workers. Not only do they have the bankable experience to work with, but they also offer a perspective the younger workers may not have the insight to. These things can prove helpful in projects where different age demographics matter the most.

Look Past Aging Myths

Looking past these myths on an aging workforce drives us to start building an inclusive work culture. Everyone from any background should be welcome to explore their career growth through upskilling and collaborating on new projects. Mentoring is also an option that allows older and younger workers to find new ways to connect and learn through experiences together.

Finding a way to cultivate open communication will also empower everyone to see when people are ready to take on new things. This may be new challenges in the company or life pursuits beyond retirement. The sky is the limit!

Do you experience or have you experienced workplace ageism? Let us know in the comments at the bottom of this page. 

About the Author: Viridiana Valdes is an experienced Marketing Specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the law practice industry. Skilled in Business Process, Negotiation, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Management, and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). Strong marketing professional with a Strategic Marketing focused in Marketing from Panamerican Consulting Group and Universidad Rafael Landivar.

 

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References:

2018 AARP survey – https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-the-eeoc-is-zealous-on-age-discrimination-2018-08-27

crystalized intelligence – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150401144959.htm

80% – https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/technology/info-2019/2019-technology-trends-older-americans.html

 

 

 

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