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Myths About Older Workers

An older female employee at a retail store smiles as she takes a credit card from a young customer.

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.

The Surprising Truths About Older Workers, AARP;
The “Silver Tsunami”: Why Older Workers Offer Better Value than Younger Ones, University of Pennsylvania;
Myths about Older Workers, Wisconsin Job Center