Last week the Star published an article that I submitted, entitled “The (Old) Elephant in the Room”. Needless to say, this was very satisfying to me personally. What I hadn’t expected was the response I’d get.
Not long ago the Toronto Star published my article entitled “The (Old) Elephant in the Room”. For those of you who didn’t see it, you can find the link here or in the news section of our website. Needless to say, this was very satisfying to me personally. What I hadn’t expected was the response I’d get from many of the readers.
The subject obviously struck a chord with a silent segment of the readership. It ignited an unintended conversation about how many people out there have been and are affected by ageism. I heard from people who have cases in front of the Human Rights Tribunal currently; others who have been denied professional development and opportunities for promotion as well as from all those out there who are desperately seeking work but can’t find any.
Although the article resonated with many, I couldn’t help but think how profoundly sad it is that so many talented, capable and enthusiastic people are being denied a chance to fulfil their potential and at the same time contribute to Canada’s economic and social prosperity. Their work lives have been shortened, usually at around age 65 because of a number (established when average lifespans were 62) that describes nothing more than chronological age.
We wouldn’t ever say that a child is too young to be a genius. Why do we generalize and believe that one is too old to work, create, be productive? I am not naive. There are some professions that don’t lend themselves to continuing in the same capacity as earlier in a career. Clearly, if you have developed a tremor in your hands, your professional time as a surgeon is over. However, more roles than not are not as limiting at older stages in life. All that is required is the will on the part of employers to accommodate where necessary and make a shift. The research states repeatedly that these small accommodations and retaining older workers improve overall productivity.
As I found last week at yet another conference, diversity doesn’t seem to include age. It is still elusive and a misunderstood factor for most companies, organizations and governments. We have so successfully segregated age into silos and internalized age bias, that we can’t find our way out. If we don’t start looking more closely at the demographic shift that is already upon us, we will be even less prepared for the future of work. It’s time for all to start speaking up more loudly. Canada’s future prosperity depends on it.
All signs point to a future workforce that will span as many as four generations, but what can you do right now to stay competitive in a labour market that often favours youth? I asked Robynn Storey of Storyline Resumes to give her top three pieces of advice for job seekers over 50. As an experienced human resources person and LinkedIn influencer, you may be surprised at what she has to say.
Robynn’s advice to older workers:
Don't worry about your age, worry about how you are communicating your value. Never dumb down your resume or experience because you want to 'fit' into a lower-level job. Be you and don't be humble. You are accomplished. Show it and communicate it on your resume.
For your resume, only go into details that cover about 15 to 20 years of your history. At the end of your resume, you can list a few more jobs under an 'early career summary' including companies and job titles, but eliminating dates. Eliminate all dates on your education as well.
Use your network. One of the many great things about getting older is that you have built a strong network of peers, counterparts, friends, co-workers and influencers. Don't be afraid to ask for introductions or favours. You've earned it! And it is the best way to leapfrog other candidates and uncover the hidden job market.
If you’d like some direct support on your resume or LinkedIn profile from Robynn or her team you can find her on LinkedIn or you can call her at 724-832-8845.
For entrepreneurs, the job search may be over, but interviews with investors, lenders, and clients may just be starting. Check out T60’s Entrepreneur Interviews for tips on getting ready and staying sharp in interviews.
The “Knowledge Doubling Curve” is a term that refers to the length of time it takes for information to double. According to Buckminster Fuller, who coined the expression, until 1900 human knowledge doubled every 100 years. By the end of WWII, “doubling” was taking place every 25 years. Today, on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months, and soon human knowledge will start doubling every 12 hours.
Who can possibly keep up? It’s no wonder that when older adults reflect on their past, they frequently fall back onto familiar adages such as “when I was your age” or “in the good old days”. Life wasn’t as complicated and change occurred much more slowly. Some things were more straightforward and simpler than they are today. This doesn’t mean, however, that harkening back to those olden times was necessarily ‘better’. They were different.
Recently, I had the great pleasure of being in the company of Jane Goodall on two occasions. At both events, Dr. Goodall referred to her past with a bit of nostalgia, and in the next moment, counter with how much more she is able to accomplish in today’s world. She is the embodiment of someone who is ageing positively. She understands her chronological age (85), embraces it and seeks new learning and experience wherever she lands. She travels 300 days/year. She talks about her eventual death matter of factly, understanding there is less and less time left to champion her cause. She is determined to make the most of every experience and encounter to ensure that her message of hope for our planet is heard.
Her ambassadors of hope are children and youth. She respects and cherishes her connections with them and understands the value of listening to them. She actively engages with them in order to understand their perspectives and priorities, learning from them the way they learn from her. It is her lived experience that makes her exceptional.
We may not all be icons like Jane Goodall, but we all have choices to make about how we both age and engage with the world. While reflecting on times past is important, staying actively involved in the present is vital for future health and well-being. Seeking new experiences, interacting with younger people and moving safely outside comfort zones is necessary to keep those ‘good old days’ in perspective, and to ensure there are future good days too.
Organizational culture plays a critical role in determining productivity, creativity, engagement and other factors of success. When bullies find fertile ground at work, it can spell disaster for an organization’s short and long term goals. In addition to the legal ramifications of bullying at work, the level of disruption it causes not only undermines performance but can actually encourage good employees to leave or it can sabotage their good work.
Given the cost of bullying, why are bullies allowed to work, let alone, lead organizations?
Unrecognized: The first challenge is recognizing that bullying is happening. In competitive organizations, employees are often encouraged to use highly disruptive or even combative tactics. Being cut-throat is not just tolerated, but rewarded. In that type of work environment, it is easy to slip over the line and allow aggression to leak into the day to day operations of an organization. At this point, it becomes a destructive behaviour.
Bullies are also often unaware of their own impact on colleagues. Harassing comments can be interpreted as “jokes” or good-natured kidding around. As we often see in our work, ageist comments are regularly used and viewed as acceptable despite their damaging impact. This is why self-awareness and understanding others are the cornerstones of successful professional and personal development. They allow the individual to check unwanted behaviour before it becomes a problem.
To avoid unintended (or unrecognized bullying), identify bullying behaviour and implement a zero-tolerance policy. Provide examples of what bullying behaviour looks like and be clear on what the consequences will be if the behaviour takes place. Make sure you follow through and that alternative behaviours are suggested. For some insight into examples of bullying behaviour, take a look at the sample list provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety provided HERE.
Favouritism: Treating everyone fairly seems like an obvious requirement of workplaces, but sometimes a structural hierarchy can lead to preferential treatment that extends into social spaces. Challenges can erupt when you have unbalanced job designs that result in workload issues or role conflict. This can not only result in giving the preferred employees a disproportionate sense of entitlement but in some cases can result in abuse of other employees creating an unhealthy internal competition.
Conflict Avoidance: When bullying behaviour does happen, ignoring it will effectively reinforce the behaviour. Don’t delay when issues emerge. Address bullying behaviours as soon as possible to avoid future incidents. For tips on how to manage these conversations, check out our article, Tackling Tough Talks
Anxiety: How do you talk about yourself? If you use negative or self-deprecating language to reference yourself or your work, you could be setting the tone for how colleagues or employers engage with you. Some research shows that anxiety, self-doubt, depression and even shyness can result in more frequent incidences of bullying.
Unfortunately approaches for reducing bullying have had inconclusive results. The most significant workplace success has been in increasing awareness of bullying behaviours. The moral of the story is: it’s better to establish an environment that prohibits bullying before it starts!
Increasingly, I am reading articles about our extended lifespans and how these will impact economies around the world. By 2050, there will be more people over the age of 65 than any other age group. Authors who tout a pessimistic perspective and emphasize how damaging the grey tsunami will be are mistaken; they have been proven wrong, time and time again. In fact, living longer has opened up what is commonly referred to as the Longevity Market.
Stria News, a media platform for the longevity market, refers to the longevity economy as “working toward a society that values, supports and serves older people.” In other words, anything that supports the 50+ population is part of this economy. It encompasses absolutely every sector and every service area from housing and learning to fashion and financial services.
On August 23rd Chris Farrell author of the Purpose and a Paycheck: Finding Meaning, Money and Happiness in the Second Half of Life wrote that “the American economy would expand by over $815 billion if the U.S. increased its employment of the 55-to-64-year age group to New Zealand’s level according to PwC’s Golden Age Index.” This prompted me to take a look at the PwC Age Index which, among other OECD comparisons, compares how Canada fares when it comes to the employment of its older workers. Naively, I thought we would be close to the top of the chart, but Canada ranks 18th out of 36 OECD countries. Nothing really to be all that proud about.
Increasing older worker employment rates in OECD countries to the level of New Zealand (the top score in this index at 78%) has the potential of increasing GDP to 3.5 trillion. In other words, if more countries embraced new and more flexible structural and policy factors such as flexible pensions, varied working patterns and schedules, benefits for caregiving, a higher retirement age and more retraining or upskilling of older employees, our world would enjoy much healthier economies.
Canada is facing a shortage of skilled labour in the coming decades. This shortage could be minimized if, and that’s a big if, the value and potential of our ageing population were acknowledged instead of diminished and disrespected. Our world is getting older and we can benefit from the experiences of countries who have been managing older populations longer than we have. We have an opportunity to do better, we just have to learn from those older than us.
For North Americans, September is back to school season. Ads for school supplies dominate television and internet sites and despite our age of technology, stores are still filled with books, binders and other traditional classroom tools. Thinking about learning, however, shouldn’t be limited to “students”. Regular professional development is good for employers, employees and customers.
Continuing professional development ensures that employees keep apace with evolving methodologies, standards and knowledge. It can also mean that employees are continuing to contribute to their teams and business by introducing more effective approaches and depending on the nature of your business, perhaps more safety.
One of the limiting factors around maintaining regular professional development is cost. The cost of courses, the cost of time and perhaps the cost of travel. While not every opportunity can come at a lower price, you can find ways to mitigate costs and stay informed and up to date. Consider the following ideas when the budget is low or it’s not a big-ticket year.
Free Lunch and Learns: Numerous tech and other entrepreneurial hubs across the country offer courses at lunchtime. In Ottawa, Invest Ottawa schedules numerous free or reasonably priced educational courses at their facility every month. You can check out their calendar HERE. They also promote activities provided by others on their site so it’s a great one-stop-shop.
Bring in Professionals: If the cost of taking your staff to conferences is too high, then bring in professionals to deliver workshops. Using your own site or organizing your own rental space can offer a much cheaper alternative while still providing high-quality content. Look to professional associations for ideas on what to offer and don’t forget to check out Top Sixty services HERE https://www.topsixtyoversixty.com/Programs.
Do it for Yourself: Don’t overlook homegrown talent. If you have employees who have knowledge that would be worth sharing, then consider creating a lunch and learn series where individual or paired employees teach their colleagues. Keep in mind that not everyone will be comfortable presenting; make sure that employees have the support they need to make the experience a positive one for everyone.
Online Courses: Online courses offer a flexible and cost-effective way to continue learning. There are numerous courses offered on a range of topics by recognized universities directly or through sites like Udemy or OntarioLearn. Some courses even offer certification. There are also many online courses offered privately by subject experts on platforms like ThinkifIc or Teachable. You can also consider creating online courses from your lunch and learns that will allow everyone to access or revisit content at their leisure. Remember that people have different learning styles and not all online courses will offer the flexibility some people need to learn effectively.
Below is a list of some of the sites to check out for online learning opportunities. Money doesn’t have to be the reason why professional development is halted. It may simply require initiative and curiosity.
Every summer for the past 21 years the same group of “wild” women has gotten together for an annual canoe outing in Algonquin Park. We started this tradition in our 50s and have continued well into our 70s.
Every summer for the past 21 years the same group of “wild” women has gotten together for an annual canoe outing in Algonquin Park. We started this tradition in our 50s and have continued well into our 70s. Our intention is to keep on canoeing until we can’t.
If you ask any of us if we consider ourselves to be old, I can assure you that the answer will be a firm “no”.
Granted, many of us have replaced knees, hips and other body parts and we have modified our portage lengths considerably, but we have never considered giving up our annual summer event. In fact, if anything, we gather more frequently during the other three seasons, allegedly planning our next adventure, but actually celebrating the friendship and the fact that we can still paddle.
Are we crazy or foolhardy? I don’t think so. We don’t take any major risks and we adapt our portaging strategy to how much weight we can carry for the distance. Those who are truly fit return multiple times to bring our belongings to the next lake or river entry. We may not enjoy the mosquitoes and deer flies that buzz around us when both hands are occupied carrying packs, paddles and canoes, but we suck it up and depend on “After Bite” when we fall into our tents at night.
Tents! Herein lies the biggest challenge---getting into and out of a tent at any time of day is a nuisance, but going out at night to the kaibo is definitely awkward. Climbing over one or more tent mates to get out for a midnight pee is an endurance test. Can I hold on for one more hour or do I really have to go now?
And yet it’s the simple things that have created lasting memories for us. Sometimes we spot a moose in the marsh ahead or see a great blue heron take off. Sometimes we find the perfect rock for our sunset drinks and find two camping sites that are adjacent to one another so that we can tell stories and laugh til we cry.
So, no, when we are on these trips, we don’t think of ourselves as old. The word refers to a chronological number that doesn’t reflect the way we feel. We know we are privileged to be financially and physically able to still enjoy canoeing, but the things that keep us all feeling more youthful are things that anyone can do regardless of age.
All the research points to how longevity and quality of life increases if the following can become components of your life:
Push yourself outside your comfort zone from time to time. It helps with perspective taking and valuing what you do have.
Be grateful that you can physically take part in activity. Optimism promotes well-being.
Learn. Develop new skills and abilities (reading maps, j-stroke, gain an understanding of the flora and fauna of the environment, etc.).
Incorporate physical activity and nutritious meals into your lifestyle. Good health depends on it.
Seek social interaction. Isolation and loneliness have been found to bring on early death.
Our annual event touches on every one of these and the whole experience is best summarized by the following, written by one of our crew. While I love the physical challenge and proving to ourselves that we still have it in us, I probably love the camaraderie more. The humour, the interesting discussions and the outright silliness from time to time are the best. You don’t have to be chronologically young to be silly, but you do have to push yourself into new situations to learn, grow and enrich your life.
In the bustle of the regular business year it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of building strong team relations and thinking strategically. The summer time or any slow season is a great time to make a dedicated effort to build bonds.
In the bustle of the regular business year it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of building strong team relations and thinking strategically. The summer time or any slow season is a great time to make a dedicated effort to build bonds and ensure your team is in synch. The following ideas provide just some of the ways you can build stronger ties in the warmth of the summer.
Introduce More Flexibility To Employee Schedules
With a slower schedule and holidays running interference with regular activities, why not use the opportunity to give employees a more flexible schedule? Long winter hours can be recouped with shorter summer weeks. Leaving early on Fridays, late start Mondays, or no show Mondays or Fridays, is one simple way to reward employees and is a popular move regardless of age.
Get Together With Staff More Often
It’s hard to break down barriers when you don’t spend time together. The summer is a great time to coordinate group activities. Consider building an employee garden, exploring employee creativity with a workshop, or plan a field trip (picnic, trip to the gallery, hike). Whatever you decide, make sure the activity is appropriate for all participants. A strenuous hike is only fun if everyone is fit enough to enjoy it, and a gallery tour will only work if everyone has the focus required to pay attention. Be sure to mix people up so you don’t have the same old cliques reasserting themselves.
Get Strategic With Employees
Summer is also a great time to reflect on activities to date and begin the planning process for the year ahead. Before vacation times start to play havoc with the schedule, have a planning meeting that captures what has already happened and the direction you want to go. Once objectives are set, give employees the summer to consider next steps and their recommended plan of action. Another meeting can be scheduled for the fall to hear their ideas. This will give employees time to research options and develop tactics to achieve goals.
Progressive businesses and organizations take advantage of the slower pace that comes with summer. It’s an excellent way to build group cohesiveness.
I am, and always have been, positive about intergenerational connections, collaboration, living, learning, working, etc. A big component of our business is about helping organizations take advantage of their multi-generational workforces by turning them into productive, intergenerational teams. What I find disheartening is that we need a national day (Intergenerational Day) dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of connecting across generations.
As a culture, we have become so age-siloed (new word) that we typically don’t have as many connections with those who are differently aged as us. In fact, some research shows that cities are becoming divided by age. It’s a strange evolution of behaviour when you consider that grandparents today are spending far more time with grandchildren than previous generations. Could it be because grandparents are living longer, healthier lives?
The American Association for Retired People (AARP) also has research to show that grandparents contribute quite a bit financially to their grandchildren. The multigenerational divide seems to happen when we move beyond familial relationships and the generations in between.
The problem doesn’t belong to any one generation. We have all grown up in a youth-obsessed culture where the experience and wisdom of an older generation aren’t valued and where media and tv images of the young reign supreme. These images accentuate the advantages of being young and youthful and view ageing as a disease to be conquered.
There is, however, a shift in the media industry; a slow and steady shift that is moving towards representing an older demographic in more positive ways. It makes sense. After all, which generation dominates demographically and which generation holds the purse strings?
When working recently with a youth council in Kuujjuaq, the youth invited an “elder” as a full participant of the group. It was unheard of to not to do so. When questions arose, young people often turned to the elder to ask for their advice. It was natural and normal, respectful with the understanding that longer life means more experience. This belief is venerated in many indigenous cultures. When did we (westerners) begin to move away from seeing experience as an advantage?
Research has proven that children who have had exposure to grandparents and other older relatives tend to have a more favourable view of ageing than those who had little connection with older adults. Other findings show: involved grandparents remain more mentally sharp; grandchildren learn first-hand the historical perspective about how things worked and how lives were lived in the past; and both older and younger benefit from more stable, emotional relationships with reduced depressive symptoms. Intergenerational relationships are a win-win in the personal and professional realms. It’s a shame these realities are not as well-known or recognized as they might be.
Interestingly, the Encore movement in the US has been focused on these intergenerational relationships for many years. The interventions of older adults as volunteers in the lives of younger school children has been proven to show positive gains for kids academically and behaviorally. For older adults, these connections have given them purpose and meaning.
Intergenerational Day in Canada is a novelty but it might encourage future positive interactions among all generations. I am genuinely looking forward to participating with Connected Canadians at Qlik from 10-12 on Saturday, June 1st. If you are interested in learning some digital literacy skills or finding out about the Top Sixty Over Sixty, join us from 10-12 at Qlik, 290 March Road, Kanata. Bring your digital devices to get the help you need and check out the iGen events portal to find other interesting opportunities.
I hope these new intergenerational interactions will provide the impetus to value all generations more equitably.
If there is one thing I took away from the Aging in America conference and the Boomer Business Summit in New Orleans mid-April, it’s that Boomers are benefitting from the “longevity dividend” (the economic benefit of older adults remaining active in society).
If there is one thing I took away from the Aging in America conference and the Boomer Business Summit in New Orleans mid-April, it’s that Boomers are benefitting from the “longevity dividend” (the economic benefit of older adults remaining active in society). They are demanding new ways of doing business, new ways to finance projects, new amenities and homes, new needs for transportation, new ageing in place services and the list goes on. This provides unique opportunities for Boomers to stay in the business game and/or become entrepreneurs.
Although these statistics are from the US, there is a parallel to Canada. In 2017, Americans 55 and older contributed $78 billion in economic benefits; those 50 and over averaged $100 billion in charitable contributions according to the Gerontological Society of America (2018), “Longevity economics: Leveraging the advantages of an aging society”). The article also goes on to say that the “largest wealth transfer in American History” will take place between 2007 and 2061 amounting to $58.1 trillion.
This provides a compelling argument to keep older adults active and engaged and also to consult, work and play with them. They are definitely an audience that requires attention and they are still the largest cohort of voters!
But back to the conference. There were numerous presentations on caregiving, financial planning for seniors, elder fraud and abuse, policy conversations, the implications of loneliness and isolation, family and medical leaves. The sessions I chose to attend had more to do with the areas of interest to me and the Top Sixty---what is happening in the world of work for older adults. How are they being accommodated in the new age wave? Unfortunately, there were fewer of these sessions than I would have liked. Ageism was rarely touched upon. There was, however, an acknowledgement by Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Foundation, in her rousing call to action to combat ageism in the workplace which kicked off the conference. This appears to be an area for advocacy by both the AARP and its foundation.
The Boomer Business Summit was clearly focused on building a rich economy for and with Boomers. Mary Furlong and her associate, Lori Bitter, operate a well-oiled machine. The summit was well attended by exhibitors and participants and the sessions were oriented to launching and running a business. There were pitches, speakers and panels.
One excellent panel highlighted how to get into the new economy and stay there. Examples were given by Kerry Hannon, a Next Avenue blogger, and author of Never too old to get rich: entrepreneurs in midlife, a book that will appear in June, 2019. She interviewed 20 midlifers who started businesses. From their stories, she pulls out common themes and presents what is needed to be successful.
Chip Conley, known for having been hired by the two young Air BnB cofounders to turn their business around, presented about his new creation, the Modern Elder Academy. He also provided some interesting stats about the workforce in the US today. Apparently, 38% of Americans have a boss that is younger than they are and by 2025, more than 50% of the working population will have to report to someone younger. He is an ardent advocate for mentorship and posited that 75% of Millennials say they’d like to have a mentor. According to his statistics, with a mentor 25% of Millennials will remain in their jobs for 5 years or longer.
The final speaker on this panel was Sharon Emek who described how she launched and grew her business, WAHVE (Work at Home Vintage Experts), from a very small company to one that is thriving and going international. WAHVE matches people over 50 who want to work from home, either part-time or full-time, with businesses who require experts in areas such as insurance, human resources and accounting. The companies have no idea how old her clients are and find their newly engaged employees as productive, tech-savvy and as fast as other employees, thereby disproving the common myths that older adults are less capable and less productive.
Every presentation or panel had inspiring messages. Charlotte Yeh, the Chief Medical Officer for AARP Services was passionate about disrupting ageing. She believes that we are changing what it means to be old and there’s a need for the narrative to change too. Her nuggets of wisdom are perfect. According to Charlotte, we need to change “senior moment to senior momentum” and instead of “ageing in place” we need to “thrive in motion”. Her message certainly resonates with our philosophy and the Top Sixty’s ambition to help older adults re-think their futures to include purpose, possibility and engagement with others.