About: Dispelling Myths

Some say that ageism – the systematic discrimination or stereotyping based on age – is one of the last “isms” that is still accepted in society. Here are some myths to ponder as you think about older workers in your organization.

Myth: Older workers are not as healthy as younger workers.
Reality: As a group, workers 50+ remain healthy and vigorous. Older workers are not more prone to injury or absences than other workers.

Myth: You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.
Reality: Emerging research is clear – our brains continue to grow and form new pathways throughout our lives. This process is called brain plasticity. In fact, the mature brain is actually better at some tasks, especially ones that require complex problem solving and information synthesis. As for older workers, they generally embrace opportunities to learn and grow and develop new skills – learning is a key driver of engagement for older workers.

Myth: It will be challenging having younger workers supervising older workers.
Reality: Chances are, your organization is already navigating these kinds of relationships. By targeting encore talent, you will be taking incremental steps towards a multigenerational workforce, and building on what you are already doing. Encore Talent Works will connect you with resources and best practices to ease these transitions (see ______ section). The benefits of a multigenerational workplace are immense, and it is worth the effort to get these relationships right.

Myth: Older workers are not technologically savvy.
Reality: Older workers vary tremendously in their experience with technology. This is true of any employee group. Most of those in their 50s and 60s have adapted to (and even thrived!) in a workplace that relies on technology. In fact, we’ve got many examples of how older adults are bringing much needed technology skills to their encore work. Rather than making assumptions, a better approach is to look at fit – between the technology needs of the role and the competencies of the applicant. And, be open to training if necessary (see the myth above!).

Myth: Older workers are too expensive!
Reality: Managers often shy away from hiring applicants whose current salaries exceed their pay scales. This is especially true for older workers, whose salaries often reflect years of experience. The reality is that workers weigh a variety of factors in making career decisions. Older workers tend to be motivated by factors beyond money, like using their skills, contributing, working together with colleagues, and engaging in meaningful work. They understand that downshifting and/or changing sectors will impact compensation. The bottom line – older workers want to be compensated fairly for their work, they understand nonprofit pay models, and they are generally open to a variety of models of compensation, even pro bono or skilled volunteering roles.

Myth: Older workers are getting ready to retire soon and I’ll lose my investment.
Reality: In hiring, there are no guarantees. In fact, younger workers change jobs more frequently than older workers. Older workers also have higher rates of employee engagement than younger workers, adding additional value through engagement.