Age UK: An older worker, but just as productive.

By on 06 09, 2014 in elderly

This week we share a blog post from Age UK:

If you want to raise a few eyebrows, there’s nothing like busting a stereotype.

Older workers are perceived in many (usually negative) ways, and such stereotypes are often deeply ingrained with the nation’s psyche. However it’s often unfair to apply them to the majority of people, which is why it’s important we challenge them.

This blog dissects just one: that as people age, their health gets worse and cognitive ability declines making them less productive in the workplace.

Our new briefing, which draws its conclusions based on a wide range of research evidence, explains in detail why this view in incorrect.

Out-of-date assumptions
Many studies that find older workers are less productive date from the last century, and simply assume that ageing leads to a noticeable decline in physical and mental health.

Many of these – unsurprisingly, given the assumption – find that ageing reduces productivity!

However recent improvements in the medical evidence show clearly that while peoples’ capabilities do change as they age – there may be slight declines in some areas and improvements in others – this leads to a neutral or even a positive overall effect, both of which are contrary to the stereotype.

Occupational differences?
It’s easy to recognise arguments rebutting the stereotype as being correct in service-based occupations. But perhaps more surprisingly it also holds true in many manual jobs.

Studies from German car-production lines again show that older workers can be at least as productive as their younger colleagues.

Ultimately there are very few jobs that require people to fully exert themselves physically or mentally, meaning people don’t need to perform at their peak over long periods of time.

Age is just a number
As the briefing shows, someone’s chronological age bears no relation to their ability or capability. And the vast majority of jobs can be done by people regardless of age – as long as the job-holder has the right skills and attributes, of course.

Someone’s age should not be a barrier to a fulfilling career.

The briefing also considers another question – what would happen if we had more age-friendly working practices (such as genuinely flexible working or proper reasonable adjustments)?

Surely this would help boost productivity among older workers even further.

And there may even be a few employers who would agree.




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