Myths about Older Workers

By 2022, more than 27 percent of Ohio’s labor force will be age 55 or older. Rapidly changing demographics and Ohio's economic realities require employers to challenge stereotypes about employing older workers.

MYTH: Older workers are sick more often and cost more to employ.

REALITY: Older workers generally use fewer sick days than younger workers. They also tend to have lower health care costs, as most do not have children as dependents on their health care plans. In addition, workers age 65 and older are eligible for Medicare, which can further reduce an employer's health care costs.

MYTH: Older workers are not quality oriented and have difficulty with solving problems, evaluating information, and making decisions.

REALITY: Older adults tend to have superior interpersonal and problem-solving skills, and are generally better able to deal with co-workers and customers than their younger counterparts. Patience learned through years of experience is a valuable attribute in stressful situations that require objective thinking over emotional reaction.

MYTH: Older workers are not as productive as younger workers.

REALITY: Workplace wisdom often is the greatest asset of an older worker. Every aspect of job performance improves with experience, especially productivity. Older workers generally know where to invest time and effort in order to avoid costly mistakes. They generally are better able than younger workers to avoid non-work distractions. They also know how to maintain contacts and relationships and seek help when necessary.

MYTH: Older workers will struggle to learn new skills and technologies.

REALITY: If they've been in the workforce for a while, they've seen many technologies and techniques come and go. Experience with other ways to do things, coupled with awareness of related topics, gives them an edge when it comes to learning new approaches. As a result, training costs related to older workers are typically lower.

MYTH: Older workers are more likely to quit their jobs, so training is not a worthwhile investment.

REALITY: A 50-year-old employee is likely to remain with an employer longer than a 20 or 30-year-old.

MYTH: Older workers are less physically capable and more prone to accidents.

REALITY: While it is true that we all experience physical and cognitive changes as we age, experience very often helps older workers more fully compensate for loss of ability. Older workers are less likely than younger workers to have workplace accidents, and the causes of those accidents differ.

Benefits of an Multigenerational Workforce

“For the first time in modern history, workplace demographics now span four generations, meaning that 20-year-old new hires can find themselves working side-by-side with colleagues who are older than they are by 50 years (or even more).” – AARP

A multigenerational workforce is increasingly becoming the norm around the world. While many are of the opinion that older workers and younger workers can't get along, research has found that a diverse and multigenerational labor force offers many benefits. The secret to unlocking the potential of your full workforce is to understand what motivates each generation and encouraging the sharing of ideas and values.

Characteristics of Generations in the Workplace

Baby Boom Generation
(Born 1946-1964)
Generations X and Y
(Born 1965 – 2000)
  • Value hard work; less work-life balance
  • Value self-discipline and leisure; more work-life balance
  • Work well with leaders who are coaches (who facilitate rather than dictate)
  • Enjoy creative freedom and projects they can do in their own way and on their own time
  • Have strong interpersonal skills and value in-person communication; more likely to use meetings and phone calls to connect with others and coordinate work
  • Prefer interpersonal communication to be convenient and efficient; more likely to rely on social media, text messages and emails to connect with others and coordinate work
  • Motivated by the promise of influence and authority; competitive and driven by personal achievement
  • Motivated by the promise of career progression; thrive on being rewarded for good performance

 

The different generations can benefit from working together. Mastering new skills while building lasting relationships with younger workers can give older workers a sense of accomplishment. Similarly, learning from older workers will enhance the skills and competencies of younger workers and set them up for career advancement.

Sources: Cennamo, L., & Gardner, D. (2008). Generational differences in work values, outcomes and person-organisation values fit. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 23(8), 891-906.
Cogin, J. (2012). Are generational differences in work values fact or fiction? Multi-country evidence and implications. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(11), 2268-2294.
Jacobson, W. S. (2007). Two’s company, three’s a crowd, and four’s a lot to manage: Supervising in today’s intergenerational workplace. Popular Government, Fall.

American Limousine ServiceAmerican Limousine Services in Columbus understands the benefits of hiring older workers. Whether it's providing chauffeur services at a funeral, or showing prospective employees around town for one of Columbus' largest and most prestigious employers, olders workers project the image that American Limousine has built its reputation upon. They understand the importance of looking professional and have the experience to know how to behave appropriately to the task. According to Jim Powell, vice president of sales and marketing: "Older workers have the work ethic we're looking for; they have the maturity and life stories we want." American Limousine uses Employment for Seniors, a local employment firm for older adults, as their primary recruiting service. 

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has been recognized by AARP as one of the best employers for workers age 50 and older.  Karen Bryer, Director of Human Resources understands the benefits of hiring older workers: "They have a strong work ethic, are good communicators, require little supervision, act as mentors to younger workers and have low absenteeism."  Many of the employers on AARP's list are in the health care industry, possibly because of attractive benefits, a range of available positions and flexible work arrangements. The Wexner Center has hired former police officers as security officers and bedside nurses as nursing educators. Karen also notes that many older workers at the center strive to keep up with new technologies, either through in-house training or classes they take on their own.

 

Senior Community Service Employment Program

Looking for older workers with up-to-date skills and work experience? Contact your regional provider for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP).

SCSEP is a paid job training and work experience program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and administered by the Ohio Department of Aging. The program helps low-income adults age 55 and older to obtain skills that will benefit them in the workplace. Participants work for non-profit organizations with the goal of eventual unsubsidized employment. Work experience is earned through customized positions in a variety of job settings. Your SCSEP provider can help you find the candidates you're looking for.

Learn more...

 

Special thanks to the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University for contributing to the content on this page.

Supporting Working Caregivers

Supporting working caregivers can give your business a competitive edge.

About one in four adults who provide care for a loved one who is older or who has a disability also work at a paying job at some point during their caregiving experience. Balancing caregiving with work can be challenging, but employers can help by supporting working caregivers.

Nearly 70 percent of working caregivers say they had to make work accommodations, such as cutting back on hours or taking a leave of absence, to tend to their loved ones’ needs. Some reported receiving warnings or discipline about performance or attendance issues arising from caregiving. Nationally, employers lose an estimated $33.6 billion annually in lost productivity from full-time working caregivers. Impacts include turnover, absenteeism, workday distractions, supervisory time, reductions in hours from full time to part time.

However, when employers support caregivers in their workforce, they are able to improve retention, increase productivity, reduce stress and improve health among their workers. Caregiver support is also a valuable benefit for attracting and retaining quality employees.

Your area agency on aging can work with you to support your workforce and guide employees to appropriate services and supports that can help them be more successful at home as well as at work.

Carol Gilmore

Carol Gilmore has faced caregiving challenges that impacted her career. While still working at her federal job, she was her mother’s primary caregiver, which included transporting her mother to doctor’s appointments and holding power of attorney, thus being involved in all caregiving decisions. Using vacation days was the only way Carol could manage those responsibilities. In 2011, when her adult son passed away and she became the primary caregiver for her grandchildren, Carol was unable to both manage her child care responsibilities and remain employed at a local bank. Her employer, a small family-owned business, understood her caregiving demands and were very accommodating to Carol’s responsibilities as a grandmother. They gave her flexible scheduling opportunities to balance her work and family lives.

(Photo courtesy of the Columbus Dispatch, Adam Cairns, photographer. Used with permission.)

Growth in Ohio’s labor force will come from the 55+ age groups.

Projected Change in Labor Force by Age Group, 2012 - 2022
Source:  2022 Ohio Job Outlook: Employment Projections. (2014). Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

An increasing proportion of Ohio’s labor force is 55+.
Ohio’s Labor Force Distribution by Age Group – 2000 – 2022

Ohio’s Labor Force Distribution by Age Group – 2000 – 2022
Source: 2022 Ohio Job Outlook: Employment Projections. (2014). Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Labor force participation rates in Ohio are increasing for older workers, especially for women and for the 65 – 74 age group.
Ohio Labor Force Participation Rates: 1992 – 2022 by Age Group

Ohio Labor Force Participation Rates: 1992 – 2022 by Age Group

Source:  2022 Ohio Job Outlook: Employment Projections. (2014). Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.