Busted: Older Worker Myths
“Grumpy”, “set in their ways” and “technologically incompetent” are among negative comments used to describe older workers. Not so, according to this checklist released a few years ago by the former Department of Labour:
Myth 1: Older workers can’t or won’t learn new skills.
Reality: While older workers sometimes take longer to absorb completely new material, their better study habits and accumulated experience actually lower training costs. Training that is tailored to people’s learning styles can be particularly beneficial.
Myth 2: Older workers are not flexible or adaptable.
Reality: Older workers are just as adaptable, but they are more likely to ask why changes are being brought in.
Myth 3: Older workers have more accidents.
Reality: This is not supported by the evidence. Older workers work smarter, take fewer risks and have lower accident rates than many other groups.
Myth 4: Older workers are less productive.
Reality: Productivity is not a function of age. In fact, mature workers produce high-quality work, which can result in significant cost savings for employers. Stories abound of highly committed older workers preventing costly mistakes.
Myth 5: Older workers take more sick days than younger workers.
Reality: Attendance records are actually better for older workers. Any significant increase in hospital stays or sick leave is not likely to show up until people are aged over 80.
Myth 6: Older workers are more expensive.
Reality: Older workers tend to stay in a job longer than younger workers. Subsequently, less needs to be spent on their recruitment, hiring and training in generic skills.
Myth 7: Older workers lack strength and stamina.
Reality: This is a stereotype. Many older workers have excellent strength and stamina, sometimes better than younger workers. Often, declining strength can be compensated for by exercise. Appropriate use of equipment can also minimise physical limitations – and not just for older workers.
This was published as part of the article How Not to Retire, in the March 2018 issue of North & South.