8 Myths of Older vs. Younger Workers & Consumers
By Tracy E. Hill, Ph.D.
All over the world, populations are aging—a trend that will continue for decades to come. Much of the business world is nonetheless unprepared to deal with the economic implications of this. In many cases, this inaction stems from misconceptions about older workers and consumers. Here we have identified the top eight myths and the truths behind them.
Myth 1: Older workers aren’t as knowledgeable as younger ones and require more teaching time.
Fact: In fact, older employees are often able to jump right into a position, having accumulated decades of experience, as well as having a vast amount of institutional knowledge if they’ve been at the company for a while.
Myth 2: Countries with aging populations (e.g., Japan, Italy, and Greece) face low economic growth rates.
Fact: Some economists believe that there will be fewer employees contributing to production of products or provision of services. This could mean slower economic growth on a global scale, lower long-term productivity, and higher taxes for the remaining workforce as economies struggle to absorb the costs of their aging populations. Yet, the truth is that older people have the highest spending and purchasing power of any other subgroup. Therefore, businesses will have to adapt to produce those products and services that are becoming more and more in demand by older people (e.g., travel, healthcare items, luxury items, etc.) and utilize the creativity and sophistication of this population to help more economies better serve their senior citizens.
Myth 3: Marketing campaigns for older consumers have a negative appeal.
Fact: Turn on the television, or check out social media on your computer or smartphone—Silver Sagers are everywhere! Grey-haired models are now earning six figures to flaunt their silver strands. As businesses begin to realize the purchasing power of older consumers and the products they want, you’ll see more grey-haired commercials digitally, in print, and on air.
Myth 4 Older employees have higher absenteeism rates.
Fact: The reality is that senior employees have lower absenteeism rates and higher productivity rates. They are known to be more punctual and are more loyal than their younger contemporaries.
Myth 5: The older generation cannot keep up with technological advances.
Fact: The digital divide has nothing to do with age. Charles Babbage was a Silver Sager (age 43) when he designed the first automatic computing machine. You can still teach an old dog new tricks. All that person needs is the motivation to be taught. As our grandchildren teach us, our mentors and supervisors and friends teach us—we learn just as readily and easily as the millennials, Gen Z’s, and Gen Alphas do.
Myth 6: The mind and entrepreneurial spirit decline with age.
Fact: At 101, American astrophysicist and astronomer Charles Greeley Abbot was the oldest inventor ever to receive a patent, in 1973. The average age of a successful startup entrepreneur is 45, and those that fail are most often younger folk. Some of our greatest minds and entrepreneurs have been Silver Sagers. Research out of Northwestern University has found that an older person (55-year-old and even a 65-year-old) has significantly more innovation potential than someone half their age.
Myth 7: Retaining older workers is likely to hurt overall employment growth.
Fact: Actually, as people have less children globally, employers will need to keep their older employees on longer to fill the employment gaps. Although one can often hire younger folk for less money, the onboarding costs can amplify the total expenditure per employee to the point where maintaining the seasoned employees may be more cost effective in the long run.
Myth 8: Younger employees need less supervision.
Fact: The fact is that older employees need less supervision, are more trustworthy, and don’t need a pat on the back at the end of every day. Although the recognition is always nice, baby boomers don’t need it or expect it.
Photo credits by: bls.gov and news-medical.net