What is society’s overall perception of the so-called “elderly”? Do you find it sways generally positive? Negative? What about in terms of the boomer generation as they begin to be associated more and more with the older generation?
I think you could argue that boomers have done a lot to change the view on the older generation for the better. Much of that has to do with the ways they have changed the modern workforce. Their generation has effectively done away with the concept of the retirement as we know it. Boomers are ready to continue their careers well passed the ‘retirement age’ and even seek out new opportunities at this stage. Employers are, in some cases, starting to take notice and take advantage of an eager and experienced workforce. All this has helped fight against the notion of older generations as finished in the professional world and in any way that contributes to overall society. But have things changed enough?
There are still a lot of negative and harmful perceptions aimed at boomers in the workforce. Younger generations see them as greedily taking opportunities away from those new to the professional world by not stepping aside. But contradicting that, many employers still seem them as behind on the times and with one foot already in retirement.
On a past episode of Encore, our guest Marjorie Willison identified these attitudes towards aging as something that needed to change, not only for boomers but for the workforce at large. She specifically looked at the aging population of the Maritimes and the many concerns over its demographic shift. While studies like the so-called Ivany Report looked at the issues of the situation, they failed to recognize the economic potential of the boomer professionals.
Businesses tend to view their older workers as more of a strain than an actually benefit – they do that at the detriment to their own success. The value these older, experienced workers provide to a business of any kind cannot be measured and certainly should not to ignored. Nor does hiring boomer professional take away the jobs of the younger generation trying to break in. The truth is, with the aging workforce as it is, businesses need both older and younger professionals to survive.
Regardless of how long boomers push back their retirement, there will come a day when their generation is no longer a part of the workforce. The younger generations need to be able to fill that gap effectively. However, many businesses are finding an experience gap exists as well with the younger talent looking for work. As can be expected, there aren’t too many candidates who can match the decades of experience held by the boomer professionals who have vacated the positions. With these age groups sharing the workforce, it presents the opportunity for sharing of skills, experience and knowledge that allows boomers to remain engaged and helps better prepare the younger generation for their careers.
Ageism, like many types of discrimination, grows from a place of ignorance. That ignorance fails to recognize the opportunities presented by the multigenerational workforce and it helps keep those negative perceptions alive. The more the professional world can fight against these simple thoughts, the stronger we all become together.
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