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Some interesting but contradictory trends now happening with the workforce getting older. On one hand, society is always
celebrating youth. But demographic and workplace trends are pulling in the other direction, creating some fascinating tensions.

Look around and you will see it everywhere. People are living longer and spending more time at work, so companies and workers will need to start coming up with smarter and more creative strategies about age and work. In some organisations, people in their 20s and 30s are discovering that their career paths are stuck, blocked by underperforming managers in their 50s who, like rusty nails, can’t be pulled out.
In other places, more people in their 50s will find themselves being managed by people young enough to be their children. And we are seeing more people embracing so-called
worktirement where older workers are staying on the job, or taking on other kinds of work, well beyond the standard retirement age of 65.

On that subject, it’s interesting to look at a US Civic Ventures Encore Career Survey which found that a growing number of people in their 50s and 60s are moving into what some call “encore careers”.

But at the other end, society and workplaces are embracing youth big-time and that’s creating enormous tensions. Stuff so bad
that some people in their late 40s are starting to doctor their resumes, deleting the stuff that would date them, reports The Wall Street Journal

. A Botox for the CV if you want.

At the same time, however, demographic forces are pushing in the opposite direction. As Slate’s Daniel Gross writes,
frisky veterans have taken over the business world.
Everyone from Rupert Murdoch, 77, to Jack Welch, 72. Perhaps they’re taking their cues from old rockers like Neil Diamond, 67; Mick Jagger, 64; and Tina Turner, 68. In both sectors, the market is still rewarding the creative genius of these old-timers, even if they have slowed down.

And while there is still a lot of resistance to considering older people for job hires, the forces of demographics and the greying
workforce might change all that.

That is inevitable with the first of the boomers now in their 60s, and with people more accustomed to living longer and being healthier. More than 40 years ago, on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Paul McCartney posed the
question: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?
“. Sir Paul is now not exactly doing the garden and
digging the weeds. Apart from earning royalties on Beatles songs, his business,
MPL Communications, owns rights to more than 3000 songs, including musicals and the Buddy Holly catalogue. And he is putting out a new album, Memory Almost Full (which has references to him getting older and eventually dying). All over the world, the over-60s are being like McCartney and continuing to work. People in the third stage of their lives, in their 60s and beyond, are expanding and refashioning careers.

All that suggests is that 70 is the new 50. There are some obvious reasons for this. First, the shift to service industries
in the developed world means that fewer people are doing hard, physical yakka in factories and mines and on farms and docks – fewer people who are worn out after decades in the workforce. Secondly, people are living longer – back in the 1950s, a large proportion of executives would die before they hit 65, effectively dying in office – which means, these days, they can be around 20 or even 30 years on from their 60s. They are also healthier and more likely to live independently and have a better quality of life than their counterparts 100 years ago.

So what we have is a tension between two forces. At one end, companies are desperately trying to recruit the young and energetic. But at the same time, the old refuse to step down and indeed are getting stronger.

What’s your take on this trend? Which way should companies go? For youth, or the old and hoary? If you are getting on, have
you noticed any discrimination against older workers? Tell us what you have seen or experienced.

Author: ~ Publication Date: 7/4/2008 9:05:07 AM


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