5 Strategies for Dealing With Aging In the Workplace
It’s no secret that the American workforce is aging. Data from the BLS shows that in 2014, 40 percent of the total workforce was aged 55 or older—and through 2024, the labor force participation rate is growing fastest for employees aged 65 and up.
Sure, the millennial workforce is also growing fast, but the above data proves a shift in workplace dynamics we’ve never seen before. People are working longer than they used to and delaying their retirements. This is building a bigger and bigger subset of workers trying to compete in the same crowded space—and despite their experience, older workers are often at a disadvantage.
With that in mind, we’d like to provide a few ways to deal with these challenges and maintain your skills as you grow older.
1. Pay Attention to Your Mind and Body
None of us are as young as we used to be—and that’s okay. You don’t need to feel hindered by the effects of aging, but it’s important to acknowledge that you won’t be able to burn as hard as your twenty-something coworkers.
It happens to all of us eventually, and while the physical constraints of aging may be unavoidable to a certain degree, you can mitigate their impact on your work performance by keeping close tabs on your physical, and mental, state.
As we get older, it’s more important than ever to maintain a good diet and to get regular exercise when you can. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but the sooner you come to terms with your limits, the sooner you’ll realize that you don’t have to do it all. For older workers looking to keep a positive work/life balance, this is an important lesson.
2. Stay Social When Possible
This one is tough when you’re a senior member (read: old member) of your team. When your office is packed with professionals in their twenties and thirties, socializing might seem like a tall order. It can feel tough to feel heard and understood, but these are crucial aspects of your well-being that you can’t ignore. There’s even research out there showing that people feel noticeably happier and healthier when they feel understood in their daily social interactions.
But remember—this need applies to them as well as you. Particularly if you’re in a position of authority, be the one to reach out and make the connection.
3. Never Stop Building Your Skills
It’s an unfortunate truth that older workers face downward mobility in the workplace. Executives think long-term and give new opportunities to younger workers who will stick with the company for decades. This unfortunate practice isn’t always avoidable, but you can hedge your bets by demonstrating a commitment to learning new skills:
- Volunteer for training opportunities instead of waiting to be asked;
- Check out weekend classes or seminars where you can learn from others in person;
- Look online for free courses (we recommend Coursera as a great place to start!)
The best way to keep your mind sharp and your skills relevant is to stay engaged with new activities. Work on building new skills you can fold into your repertoire.
4. Continue to Build Your Nest Egg
Many of us who work into our golden years do so because we haven’t saved enough to retire. Of course, maybe you’re one of those who just wants to stay busy, or you might be one of those rare individuals who love your job enough that you don’t want to retire. But regardless of your reason, your commitment to your job is the best way to work on that retirement nest egg.
Those who retire generally rely on their savings, pensions, or government benefits to get by. Translation? Fixed income. Depending on how fancy your tastes are, these financial constraints can be a tough adjustment to make. Even if it wasn’t your dream to work into your late sixties or seventies, your income may provide some financial flexibility that your peers lack.
5. Stay Flexible
Nobody wants to be the “stubborn” one in the workplace, but unfortunately, older employees often get stuck with this reputation. Your experience often works against you, here. Older workers have the reputation for being more resistant to change and unwilling to adapt. While you can’t change these perceptions, you can show your coworkers that you can’t be put into these boxes.
There’s no denying that it’s a tough market for older employees. Companies prioritize youth, agility, and flexibility—traits not typically associated with the aging workforce. Nonetheless, if you want to maintain your viability in the marketplace, you’ll need to break through these barriers and show companies that your experience makes you a valuable asset to the team.