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Older workers as productive as younger workers, say researchers


Older workers in professions such as healthcare are as productive as their younger counterparts and are equally motivated and willing to be flexible, according to a new study.

Research for Age UK found little evidence to back up “disparaging and engrained” stereotypes of older employees.

Older workers compensated for any dip in physical abilities with their skills and experience, the study by Essex University found.

Dr Kathleen Riach, who carried out the study, said: “Our review found that stereotyped perceptions about older workers don’t stand up to scrutiny. Our work indicates that age doesn’t determine a person’s commitment and productivity levels at work. Other socioeconomic and psychological factors are much better indicators of the way older people behave.”

The study also found that older people took fewer short term absences than younger workers, although when they were absent on sick leave, it was for longer.

Michelle Mitchell of Age UK, said: “This shows that the time has come for employers and recruiters to shed their inaccurate and damaging perceptions of older workers. Too often older workers are written off as a burden when in fact their commitment, productivity, skills and expertise make them an invaluable boon to business and the UK economy.

“Nearly half of all unemployed older workers have been out of work for more than a year. It’s time the UK finally appreciated the value of this untapped potential.”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • not quite ready for the scrap heap just yet then, when do you officially become an 'older' worker?

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  • I wrote to Age UK to ask what the definition of elderly was and when one is classed as elderly as it seems to change according to context or convenience! they were unable to provide me with a coherent response and just reeled off a few of their services which they claim to offer as and when needed! Maybe I should have asked the gerontologists in an academic department instead.

    A renowned prof. of paediatrics and a neuroscientist once said in a lecture I attended on old age and dementia, and himself still in full time work well past retirement, that the parameters of old age have had to be altered in line with the ageing population and there are now three categories of old age - young, middle and advanced. However, I do not know whether this categorisation has ever been made official Europe wide or globally and does not seem so.

    maybe it is individual and as old as one feels but then perhaps we should remove the label which can be used as a means of discrimination and stigmatisation!

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  • there should be workers of all ages without any distinction or discrimination who complement each other. differences in age should not even need to be considered. society is is just what it is, made up of all ages and different types of people. physical and mental abilities are very individual.

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  • We have discrimination on basis of race, sex, disability etc, so let's add ageism to the list. I am I suspect an "older person" now or at least heading that way. I work 12 hour days, go home, look after my home, family and pets and support my elderly parents, garden, shop, etc etc. I get very tired at times and p... off but I am certainly as productive if not more so than my younger colleagues, SOME of whom do not appear to have as much stamina as I do.

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  • Anonymous 9:32, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of age and has been since 2006

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