Who knew that experience could, does and will work against older employees? Studies show that senior staff are being laid off, in part, due to age. At the same time, many older job applicants are being turned away or turned down because they are seen as ‘too old’ and behind the times. Age and experience are made an issue rather than an opportunity.
In the 1984 U.S. Presidential election, age was presented as an issue. Ronald Reagan was in his 70s. His opponent, Walter Mondale, in his 50s. A win for Reagan would make him the oldest elected President in U.S. history.
But, in what would be the defining moment of the election, the topic quickly became a non-issue with Reagan’s response to a debate question of age. Reagan said, "I will not make age an issue,” adding,
"I am not going to exploit, for political purposes,
my opponent's youth and inexperience.”
There is a value to age and experience. A value that experts cannot accurately measure but it's there. It is an innate ability, something that comes with time and through lived experiences. And, it is often taken for granted by those who benefit from it.
Employers gain immensely from experience, especially from senior employees. Experience helps people think on their feet, at a faster rate. It can also make people better at the soft skills such as communication, time-management, problem-solving and leadership.
Experienced workers also tend to care more about the business or cause because they care less about promotions and advancement. In many cases, senior employees even forego a higher salary in the latter stages of their work-life in favour of a job that is more rewarding.
Older employees also make good mentors for younger staff. Senior workers have a maturity and sense of wisdom that is valuable beyond the workplace and, as the population ages, it is important to encourage generations to exchange ideas and share experiences.
Eliminating ageism, and the stereotypes of age and aging, means eliminating the perception that older employees are out of touch, especially with technology, rigid and not openminded, and are passing time until they retire. In reality, senior employees contribute to a growing, positive work environment, to the community and to the economy, often in ways beyond what is easily and always visible.