Ageism in the workplace.

From July 1, 2017, we will see the first of four biennial changes made by the federal government to raise the eligibility age for the pension to 67 by 2023.

In the last 20 years, our growing population has shown a proportionally larger increase in those aged 65 and over, with the number of people aged over 85 doubling. In the same period, the proportion of people aged 15 years and less decreased.

With Australians living and working longer than ever before, there is a need to address societal perceptions of older people to increase participation by older workers in the workforce. Older workers face ageist stereotypes, biases and negative attitudes which label them as too difficult to train, and too costly.  As a society, we are discarding valuable older workers far too early; ageism in the workplace is endemic.

Generational warfare.

According to research by Michael North, founder of the Accommodating Generations in Employment (AGE) Initiative, overstepping societal boundaries can lead to discontent between generations.

Imagine there is a hypothetical age queue: young people enter, middle-agers thrive, elders retire. Societal allocations of symbolic and practical resources tend to favour the middle-aged, with young people slowly working upwards… as long as the line keeps moving. With the age of retirement increasing, and people working well into their seventies, generational angst rears its head.

Here, we see prescriptive “should”-based stereotypes dictate the behaviour of other age groups. Ageism appears in the fear that older people are “hogging” resources (in healthcare, in government, in property) before others have a chance to get their share. There is a belief that older people should make way for others to gain improved employment and political influence. But the government has made it clear that older workers must work longer. An extra 3 percent participation rate in workers over 55 is estimated to account for a $33 billion boost to the economy.

Dispelling the myths.

Recently, the Council of the Ageing (COTA), in partnership with Ellis Jones, won a Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation grant to begin research into a social enterprise affectionately called ‘The Centre’.

Through online surveys and focus groups in the Realm of Possibilities, this research has highlighted the need to advocate for positive representation of older workers in public dialogue. We spoke to many older people willing to work but finding it near impossible to gain employment after the age of 50.

“This is the largest, healthiest most active population we have ever had.”
Micheal North, founder of AGE Initiative

Shifting ageism in the workplace.

From an organisational perspective, the need to understand our ageing population has never been greater. Ageism can no longer exist alongside the fact that 75% of people expect to work past retirement age, and five generations will co-exist in the same workplace by 2020.

There is a need to shift the focus from what older people should or shouldn’t do, to making the evermore inter-generational workplace a productive one. This is a responsibility that falls largely to organisations.

Talk to us about harnessing the power of inter-generational collaboration.

And if you have older generations on your mind, come to our co-design in aged care event.