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For the first time in history, Canada has more people over the age of 65 than under 15. The age group that now encompasses the boomer generation – 54 to 73 – makes up 29 per cent of the population, compared with 18 per cent in that age group two decades ago. The number of people over 65, the traditional retirement age in this country, makes up 16 per cent of the population – double their proportion in 1971.

While some boomers are financially capable of retiring, not all are ready to retire.  Many older people need to save longer for retirement so they don’t outlive their savings.  Others just choose to work longer to continue to remain cognitively engaged and actively contributing to society. Yet as far as job prospects and employer interest go, older workers are getting little respect.  Many employers have misperceptions regarding older or mature workers. Misconceptions such as they will get sick and leave, or be a drain on company benefits, are common place.  Other familiar mistaken beliefs are that older people have difficulty adapting to change, will not work as hard as younger people and are just coasting towards retirement.  Among the most common negative stereotypes are that older adults all lack technology capabilities and are incapable of learning new skills.

Boomers are currently experiencing the highest numbers of unemployment in the general workforce, and for longer periods of time — double that of younger generations. Surveys consistently show people 50+ believe they experience age discrimination in the job market.  Unemployed workers 50+ are being referred to as “the new unemployables”.

And yet, Baby Boomers contribute in critical ways to the success of companies.  UK research called “Age Positive” concluded that 50+ workers are productive, engaged and loyal, and typically possess specialized expertise and training. When organizations downsize older employees, they may not realize that company history—such as key business knowledge, strategies that worked, or failed— goes with them.  Ageism is as detrimental to employers as to employees, yet it is rampant in the workforce.

Older workers can continue to contribute their considerable experience and skills, if they are offered the chance to continue their careers.

An aging population, an aging workforce, and a diverse labour pool provide an extraordinary opportunity for employers across all sectors to reap the many benefits afforded to those who strategically harness the power of generational diversity and build inclusive age-friendly, organizational cultures.

There are many benefits to hiring people aged 50+, including:

  • A high degree of experience – both life and work experience
  • Dedication to their work
  • Punctuality – they can be counted on to come to work and be on time
  • Pride in a job well done
  • Effective communicators
  • Serve as mentors for younger employees
  • Good leaders who lead by example

People should be hired based on ability and qualifications that define who would be a true asset to the business, regardless of age.  Afterall, reality is that the better the quality of employees, the better will be the quality of work.

As the growth rate of the workforce slows or even shrinks in the future, tapping the full potential of older workers will become necessary to continue to grow companies’ bottom lines and Canada’s gross domestic products.

Raising awareness for the importance of keeping Canada’s ageing workforce healthy, effective, engaged and available for employment, including the underlying responsibility for employers to lead positive action on general employee wellness for all ages, is important for business and societal success.

 

Marylou Hilliard

Principal, AGEWORKS®

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