With the pros and cons of an ageing population, retirement and people working longer regularly and fiercely debated in the media and political arenas, cognitive neuroscientist and age diversity specialist, Dr Lynda Shaw, conducted detailed research to find out more about people’s attitudes to ageing in the workplace.
The majority of survey respondents said that overall, they felt happy (93%) and healthy (85%) when they were at work. When asked about retiring themselves, the majority of respondents said they would like to retire between the age of 61 and 65 (31%) although only 22% believed this would actually become reality with 38% saying 66-70 years old was a more likely estimate.
Only 3% of people said they would wish to retire under 50 years old, although none of these said they thought it would actually happen. By comparison 16% of the respondent’s mothers and 28% of their fathers retired between 61-65 years old; with 53% of the mothers retiring before 61 years old.
When asked what they most associate retirement with, the majority of answers selected positive attributes such as having more time to see family and friends (63%), an active lifestyle (52%), more holidays (44%), less stress (40%) and a better lifestyle (31%). The biggest negative associate with retirement was money issues (37%).
86% of survey respondents said they did not think people should be forced to retire at a certain age by law; and said they felt the most important reason why over 60s generally continue to work is to increase their pension fund (43%), rather than for the love of their job (21%).
Importance of Age in the Workplace
When asked how important specific age groups are in the workplace, survey respondents ranked over 60s as the least important (46%) and 40s (27%) as the most important.
Shaw says: “People’s attitudes assume that the mature workforce is least important, however they are extremely valuable! Over 60s are bursting with knowledge and experience. This needs to be embraced, enhanced and utilised. Businesses can really benefit from an age diverse workplace, mixing the new ideas and knowledge of younger workers with the experience and expertise of older workers.”
Mature job seeking
66% of people believed that age alone, regardless of qualifications and experience, could be a barrier for getting a job. When asked what age group would be preferred for hiring, 30s was ranked the most popular (40%) and over 60s was the group least likely to be hired from (49%) – not taking qualifications and experience into account.
When asked in our current economic climate, does the prospect of redundancy worry you more as you get older, a surprising 55% said no.
Attitudes in the Workplace
70% of people thought that over 60s would be intimidated by advanced technology in the workplace.
When asked about attitudes and attributes in the workplace, survey respondents believed that over 60s would most beneficially contribute a better work ethic (69%) and a hard-working attitude (65%) to a workforce in a greater way than people in their 30s. Respondents said that they thought the biggest downside to employing people over 60 was that they would be slower to learn new skills (61%) and more adverse to operational changes (52%).
Shaw points out: “Older employees might be slower to learn, but they are incredibly eager to try new things and develop. If employees spent some training time older as well as younger cohorts, they would reap a greater return for their investment.”
When asked which characteristic was most associated with specific age groups at work, 20s were characterised most highly as being energetic (44%), 30s as ambitious (52%), 40s as hard-working (60%), 50s (44%)and 60s (33%) were both considered loyal, as their most creditable characteristic.
Negative traits most associated with each age group were undisciplined for 20s (a staggering 87% of respondents selected this), argumentative for 30s (17%), erratic moods for 40s (14%), anxious for 50s (19%) and lacking ambition (53%) for 60s.
Shaw argues: “There is still stigma around growing old and a mature workforce. The results of this survey have shown mixed responses about attitudes towards age in the work place. Although over 60s were considered the least likely to be hired, they were attributed with many characteristics in the work place including loyalty, having a better work ethic and a hard-working attitude. Conversely, although the youngest age groups, 20s and 30s, were considered energetic, ambitious and a popular age group to hire, they were also associated with negative traits such as being undisciplined and argumentative.
According to survey results, the biggest fear among our survey respondents would be loss of memory (62%) over loss of mobility (49%) and loss of income (14%); but 86% of respondents said they did not expect to be looked after by relatives when they grow older.