Gray Power: Myths abound about older workers talent

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Many companies have misconceptions concerning older workers.

There are many myths and reservations about hiring and/or retaining older workers. Employers do have fears about older workers and believe that older workers will be a determent to the organization.

Catherine Dorton Fyock and Anne Marrs Dorton explained several myths employers have about older workers in 1994 in their book, &8220;UnRetirement: A Career Guide for the Retired, the Soon-to-Be Retired, the Never-Want-to-Be Retired.&8221; Most of these are alive and well today.

-Myth 1: Older workers are not interested in working

-Myth 2: Older workers

are slow, unproductive workers

-Myth 3: Older workers don&8217;t want to work because of the Social Security benefits

-Myth 4: Older workers don&8217;t need or want to work

-Myth 5: Older workers are inflexible and resistant to change

-Myth 6: Older workers have no interest in advancing

-Myth 7: Older workers won&8217;t remain with the company very long

-Myth 8: Older workers are often absent from work because of illness

-Myth 9: Older workers incur higher insurance costs

-Myth 10: Older workers are expensive to train

-Myth 11: Older workers are more accident prone

-Myth 12: Older workers are not as adept intellectually

-Myth 13: Older workers are difficult to work with

-Myth 14: Older workers are viewed negatively by customers

-Myth 15: Older workers lack experience

AARP’s research shows that companies who hire older workers find that the older worker is a more highly engaged employee that outperforms his or her peers on a range of key business and financial metrics.

Other research suggests that older workers may have important performance advantages in certain jobs&045;especially those requiring more experience, organizational knowledge and direct contact with an older customer base. I personally find the latter true, especially in the banking industry which appears to be replacing older workers with a younger generation.

Employers are confused and remain in denial regarding the need to actively recruit and retain older workers, even as the rates of unemployment shrink causing panic with companies in finding a high-performance workforce.

This is demonstrated by continued age discrimination cases, early-retirement incentives and a seeming lack of strategies for effectively employing older workers.

Dr. Marvin Copes is Education/Community Service Volunteer for AARP Alabama in Maylene. He can be reached by e-mail at