Improving with age

10 May 2024
I imagine that like many people growing up, turning 50 sat in a parallel universe. It was incomprehensible to be THAT old, and even more so to still have energy, enthusiasm, and talents to offer anybody by then. I gradually learnt, of course, that 50 is by no means old, and in fact ageing is just another word for living, it shouldn’t define us or prevent us pursuing our dreams. Yet in the world of work it unfortunately can do.

Ingeus works closely with the Centre for Ageing Better which regularly researches the employment landscape for people over 50 finding that:
•    A third of people made redundant during the pandemic were over 50.
•    Older workers who lose their jobs are more than twice as likely as other age groups to be unemployed for at least two years.
•    1 in 3 people aged over 50 believe they have been turned down for a job because of their age.
•    1 in 5 employers believe that age discrimination occurs in their organisation.

Conversely, boosts to life expectancy driven by health education and frontline care means that many of us want to extend our careers into our 60s and 70s. Age is indeed just a number for many people who enjoy the social and financial benefits of good work.

Ageism is the most widespread form of discrimination in the UK and despite ongoing labour shortages is seeing fifty-plus jobseekers passed by. 

It’s a significant and growing talent pool which we see reflected in the people accessing our employability programmes. It has been inspiring to see recent Ingeus success stories of older people following their dreams, like Jacqueline, aged 60, who has received support to publish her first book; or Rowland, 63, who has just celebrated his first year in business as a scrap metal dealer thanks to Ingeus’ help. Equally, people like Janet prove it’s never too late to add a new string to your bow and at 66 is starting a new career as a teaching assistant – with two job offers to pick from.

The value of older workers

Employers can benefit hugely from building a multi-generational workforce, including older people. Different perspectives, skills, and experiences can boost productivity, staff retention, and corporate reputation. 

Life experience. Resilience, empathy, and people skills have had time to develop and can be invaluable in overcoming workplace challenges or developing different approaches. I see this in action with the over 50 advisors Ingeus employs – they understand life challenges like childcare, paying bills, and relationship breakdowns and can steer our participants accordingly.     

Loyalty. On average, older workers are less likely to switch jobs, being happy to find a role they can settle into. 

Skills. Long-standing vocational skills, sector knowledge, and useful contacts will always be valuable and generally come with years under the belt. Combined with ingrained transferrable skills such as problem solving, time management, customer service and organisational skills, that’s knowledge that has taken years to develop.

Positive role models. Older workers can be inspiring examples to both colleagues and customers. By breaking down stubborn stereotypes, reflecting the communities in which we live, and giving younger colleagues interaction with older generations outside of their family, a widely aged workforce can benefit all.

I’m proud to say that Ingeus reflects this thinking. Around 24% of our own workforce is over 50 years old, we hold the Age Friendly Employer Pledge, and have developed and piloted training in partnership with the Centre for Ageing Better and Institute of Employability Professionals to upskill advisors across our industry to better support older jobseekers.

So, before I knew it, here I am in the parallel universe, over 50, not over the hill. I know I still have much to contribute, as do the thousands of older people currently searching for work.
Employers should think wisely about attracting and retaining people, arguably in their prime, who have improved with age.

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