How old is too old?

This past weekend, I shopped in a big-box store. The salesperson who helped me was a friend from my past. Since this person was a former professional in the business world, I asked about the transition to working in a retail environment and was surprised and disappointed to hear about how this person was “downsized” out of a very important and responsible position, especially when told that the replacement in this position was younger and less experienced.

I’ve noticed that, especially during holiday time, older, “wiser” folks are working in these kinds of retail positions. They’re genuinely focusing on making customers happy. They’re not there to be just a “warm body” at the register. They actually seem glad to be able to help customers find what they want and need.

Since the discussion with my friend, I’ve been wondering about the older/wiser folks who have performed well but are being phased out of positions to make way for younger workers, who may be just as qualified but start their work journey at a lesser rate of pay.

Jacquelyn James, in a blog for HuffingtonPost.com, dispels the myth “that senior citizens are just too old for the workplace.” She says, “Older workers aren’t risks or burdens to organizations. They are, in fact, a benefit.” She reports that, “Numerous studies have shown that older workers are the most satisfied with their jobs and the most engaged of all age groups, which any manager can tell you leads to higher levels of presenteeism and productivity.”

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The thinking that older workers won’t be happy having a younger boss is dispelled with the reality that older workers are reporting to younger bosses more and more these days. The argument that they are “past their prime” and don’t have as much energy as their younger counterparts just doesn’t work.

An Entrepreneur.com article offers 12 benefits for hiring older workers, including the fact that they’re dedicated to producing high-quality work, punctual and arrive ready to work, honest and full of integrity, and detail oriented and fully focused on their work. The article also reports that among older workers, “Maturity comes from years of life and work experience and makes for workers who get less ‘rattled’ when problems occur.”

Many successful companies do still hire “older” workers, to their great satisfaction. The people in charge of those businesses would agree that it’s a wise employer who looks beyond the common perceptions of older workers and sees still-productive team members.