There are some advantages to employing older workers.
Older workers who have brought up wilful children or are dealing with cranky, aged parents tend to be more patient than younger workers. Therefore, they would be good at jobs that require interaction with difficult customers.
With the advances in medical care and better health screening, older workers are less likely to succumb easily to chronic health problems if they take their prescribed medications.
Thus, they can be as productive as younger workers, with the added advantage of not having to take long maternity, paternity or childcare sick leave, as their children are now independent adults.
While, initially, they may not be familiar with various software applications, they can be taught these skills. In fact, they may be even better than younger workers at certain routine, repetitive tasks, such as data entry, as younger workers may find such tasks too boring.
Not being adept at handling computers may not necessarily be a disadvantage, as it may allow older workers to focus on other skills and abilities, such as visualisation, planning and organisation.
For software problems, we can always employ computer technicians to help us out.
In professions such as medicine, engineering, law and accountancy, the wealth of experience that older practitioners in these fields have acquired is invaluable in shortening the learning curve of those they mentor, as well as in helping them avoid pitfalls along the way.
Thus, it all boils down to the job requirement and the skill set of the older worker to determine his suitability for the job.
Human resource managers should see how best they can harness the strengths of their younger and older workers to keep the company ahead.
Anne Chong Su Yan (Dr)