In Praise Of... The Older Worker

There is a myth going around workplaces these days that those of us aged over 50 are not very technically adept. Hello? What rubbish!

No doubt you, the over-50 WYZA reader, is reading this on your computer (or smartphone) not long after I have keyed it into a fairly sophisticated content management system.

We do get technology – after all, we are the ones who invented it.

We are the generation who learned to type on manual typewriters, moved onto electric (remember the golf ball?) and then to basic (and I mean basic) word processing. Younger workers who have only ever used Windows-based software have no idea of the complexity of DOS, or what life was like pre-Google (when we did proper research).

Technological change has followed our whole careers.

I love working with people my own age – people who just get what’s needed. They are confident. They aren’t afraid to pick up a phone to call someone to sort out a situation. They wear work-appropriate clothes to the office and they work fast – without having to stop for a 30-minute gossip about The Bachelor.

We do the work well, with a minimum of fuss and the maximum of efficiency.

My partner is a salesman – and his clients love the fact that he takes the time to understand their business, and not just try to show off. He knows that his role is about them and their business, not his latest Instagram update.

Older workers are calmer – we’ve learnt not to sweat the small stuff – and we are great at problem solving. Because, no matter what our younger colleagues think, the same situations and problems come up time and again and we have learnt how to fix them.

Yes, we have made mistakes over the years, but we have learnt from them and we know how to deal with them.

For me, the best thing about editing for WYZA is the fact that I get to work with so many great experienced writers. Our writers just get it. I don’t have to get them to google Judith Durham or George Gregan before I commission a story. It’s such a relief!

The only problem with my generation? It seems that we have become invisible to HR managers and recruitment agents. Assumptions are made about our ability to keep up, which is strange since the over 50s are the fastest workers I know.

We are also questioned about our willingness to embrace change, also strange since we have seen the biggest amount of change in the workplace than any other generation. Change just rolls off our backs!

Media has always been a young person’s game, but I see this ageism (because let’s just call it what it is) creeping into lots of other industries too.

Almost every friend of mine has been made redundant over the last few years, as companies all over Australia go through various types of restructuring. And the older they are, the longer it takes for them to find a new job.

Some have spent up to two years looking for a job. It can be devastating – and superannuation draining. And I know these are talented people – it’s such a waste of years of good experience.

As I see it, it is up to all of us who are over 50 to support our peers – and respect their skills. Make sure your HR person, or your recruiter includes older applicants whenever you are searching for staff. Value experience – and get your children to appreciate it too (after all, they are often the people making the staffing decisions).

We may be a little older, but we are a lot wiser. Plus, many of us control the budgets. Use your power for good.

Have you experienced ageism at work? Share your story below.

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Feature image: © Phil Bray / Twentieth Century Fox, The Internship 2013