Aging Unbound

June 07, 2023
Inside HR
Diversity and Inclusion
Recruiting & Hiring
Read time: 2 mins

In late April, the EEOC released a message from Chair Charlotte A. Burrows related to May’s designation as Older Americans Month. Being an older American, my first thought was, “Well, it is about time! If I’d known, I would have celebrated!” Much to my embarrassment, research indicates the designation is over 60 years old, first acknowledged under President Kennedy in 1963.

The EEOC’s message, of course, was related to the experience of older Americans in the workplace. Despite protections, such as 1967’s Age Discrimination in Employment Act, discrimination against older workers remains. Research from AARP (2022) indicates that 62 percent of adults age 50-plus in the workforce think older workers face age discrimination at work today. Of those, 93 percent believe age discrimination is common, and 17 percent reported they have been subject (directly or indirectly) to negative age-related comments in their place of work.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics article points to workers 50-plus years of age experiencing more difficulties landing a new position. Unfortunately, the layoffs associated with the pandemic disproportionately affected workers 50 and older, leaving those employees trying to find work during the later years of their careers.

Companies should remember that each generation brings unique skills and attitudes to the organization. While many believe older workers are “overpaid” or that younger people are smarter (thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for this comment), scientific evidence shows that, for most people, mental horsepower declines after the age of 30; however, knowledge and expertise, some of the main predictors of job performance, keep increasing beyond age 80. Research also indicates that, like younger workers, older workers are seeking flexibility at work. Work from home and flexible hours have been indicated as key factors; however, there is a greater willingness among older workers to return to the workplace.

The 2023 theme for Older Americans Month was “Aging Unbound,” described as the “opportunity to explore an array of aging experiences without being boxed in by expectations and stereotypes.” This also applies to employment. There are a variety of reasons why older Americans continue to work beyond their retirement age. Some need to because they haven’t been able to save enough for retirement, while others (me included) love what they do and value the feeling of contributing to their company. Many of us break the stereotype of the older worker as being stodgy and stuck in their ways by bringing innovative ideas and efficiencies to our jobs.

If you still face challenges filling open positions, have you considered reaching out to your retirees? They can still add value to your company and bring their experience, maturity, and often a sense of stability to your workforce.