By Joe Rector
Okay, I’m about to pour out some of my “gray panther” rage. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s one used to identify us of the older generation. Not all are senior citizens are retired; some gray panthers still are alive and well in today’s workforce. It’s for those folks whom I write.
Many of us turn toward retirement when we reach our 60s. With just a little luck, our planning and savings offer us enough on which to live and pay monthly bills. However, not every person chooses to retire early or even at the regular retirement age. Some folks continue in the workforce because they simply need the money to exist. Their bills exceed what retirement income provides. Others are still vibrant folks who enjoy working and producing. They simply wish to continue plugging away in careers that have brought them personal fulfillment, in addition to a paycheck.
Those who remain in the world of work find life difficult. For one thing, they discover that others look at them as dinosaurs; they are considered too old to still be occupying a desk in some company. Younger workers doubt that older folks can contribute to the bottom line of a company or in any way offer creative ideas that will benefit clients. Too often, these younger people doubt that oldsters can grasp the concepts of using technologies that make work easier and more efficient.
When workforce cuts are made, all too often the lion’s share of layoffs and RIFs are laid at the feet of older workers. Companies can cut costs by ridding themselves of dedicated employees who have given years to their employers. The idea is that an old guy can be let go and replaced with a younger person whose salary will be much less. What bosses fail to realize is that the old guy in the corner is the one who knows how the entire machinery of a business works. Yes, he might make more than a rookie, but his knowledge is something that the new person can’t provide. That valuable information makes the business run more smoothly, and the shortcuts offer speed to the operation. Those things have been learned over time and won’t be around anymore. The replacement of old for new comes at the expense of productivity.
When job openings do occur, older workers don’t have a snowball’s chance of being hired. Employers look upon seasoned workers as folks who are washed up and worn out. They doubt that an older person can bring anything to a new, fast-paced business. Many bosses view older workers as poor fits in today’s office environment. They assume that the veteran just won’t fit the culture of the office when it is staffed with younger workers; old is equated to slow.
What is ironic is that businesses often look for retirees to work on a part-time basis. Employers prefer older people for such jobs for several reasons. First, people who return to the workplace actually show up to work every day, and they somehow manage to arrive either early or on time. Once they clock in, these undesirable folks work a full day and complete their assigned tasks; if they don’t, they clock out and then complete the work that they’ve been assigned. The whining and complaining that young workers too many times let fill the air are absent with a “retread worker.”
More workers are reaching the age of retirement; however, many of them choose to continue working. The question is whether employers will recognize the value that these older Americans offer. Wise business owners will choose to keep veteran workers and to take advantage of the skills they have and the work ethic by which they live. Sometimes, older is better.