As an HR professional, have you ever wondered what would be the best jobs for older workers? If you haven’t, you may want to give this question some thought as it is something that will become increasingly important.
The aging workforce has been a reality for a while now. Since 2011, there have been 10 000 baby boomers turning 65 every day in the US alone. According to an article by Arlene S. Hirsch, this is a trend that will continue until 2030.
In Europe, things aren’t much better. Data from the European Labor Force Survey show that a whopping 16% of the total workforce in the European Union currently consists of workers who are aged 55+.
But while this so-called silver tsunami is creating some serious challenges for HR – think absenteeism and retention for instance – it may also create some interesting opportunities. Because not everyone who reaches their retirement age wants to (fully) retire.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons why we should keep older workers and we’ll also list 13 of the best jobs for older workers.
Why We Should Keep Older Workers
For their skills & experience
From an organizational perspective, older workers often have skills that younger employees don’t (or at least not yet). The same thing goes for their experience; certain situations simply need someone who knows what to do because they’ve already dealt with a similar case in the past.
Purely from a practical perspective, there just aren’t enough (young) people with qualifications to make up for all the mature talents who are leaving.
For a healthy, happy society
Many (freshly) retired people miss feeling ‘useful’ and experience a lack of purpose. After several decades of getting up in the morning and going to work – hence actively contributing to a bigger cause and society – they find themselves all of a sudden with a lot of time on their hands.
While some retirees may find fulfillment in becoming (part-time) babysitters for their grandchildren and others may be fortunate enough to become world travelers, many of them wouldn’t mind continuing their active lives – at least part-time.
In an article for HBR, Neil Pasricha talks about why retirement is a flawed concept and discusses the concept of Ikigai. Ikigai roughly translates as ‘the reason you wake up in the morning’ and finds its origins in one of the healthiest societies in the world; that of the people who live in Okinawa, a group of more than 150 islands in the East China Sea that’s part of Japan.
One of the elements of the Ikigai philosophy is that one should never retire. Instead, we should do something we love, which Pasricha nicely summarizes into the 4 S’s:
- Social: Friends, peers, and coworkers who brighten our days and fulfill our social needs.
- Structure: Your alarm going off in the morning because you not only have a reason to get up, you also get the satisfaction from having earned your time off.
- Stimulation: Keeping your mind challenged by learning something new every day.
- Story: Being part of something bigger than yourself by joining a group with a purpose that is something you wouldn’t be able to achieve alone.
In case you’re wondering whether or not the ‘Ikigai way of life’ actually works: on average, Okinawans live seven years longer than Americans and have one of the longest disability-free life expectancies in the world…
To reduce societal costs
Research shows that being retired has a negative impact on physical, mental, and self-assessed health. To give you a few stats:
- Retirement increases the chances of depression by around 40%;
- It increases the chances of having at least one diagnosed physical condition by around 60% and;
- It increases the chances of taking a drug for such a condition by about 60%.
Now, does this mean that someone who has been working for four decades shouldn’t retire? Of course not. It does mean, however, that our perception of retirement is in need for a little makeover.
Coming back to the concept of Ikigai once again, the idea is that everyone has something unique they can contribute to society. Meaning people get to tick off those four S’s and society as a whole will benefit from it at the same time: Win-win.
The possibilities are endless, from continuing their lifetime jobs but perhaps on a part-time basis, to tutoring youngsters or volunteering for charities. To give you an idea, we’ve listed 13 of the best jobs for older workers, or mature talents, as I prefer calling them.
13 Best jobs for older workers
1. UX tester
Now, this is, in my opinion, not just one of the best jobs for older workers, but also a great opportunity for many (HR tech) companies. As the workforce is aging, an increasing number of users will fall into this category.
So what better way to make sure to cater to them as well than by employing mature talents to test your UX?! If older UX testers can use an app, the younger digital natives can as well.
2. On-demand driver
When I was living in London, I regularly Ubered from one place to another. Often I had the most interesting conversations with the drivers. One of those conversations was with a man who had worked all his life in construction, built a nice estate for himself, and quite frankly didn’t need to work anymore.
But, as he told me, he loved chatting to people, getting up in the morning – there it is again – and just feeling he was still part of the ‘working world’.
As much as companies like Uber and Deliveroo get criticized, for older workers wanting to work at their own terms, the on-demand driver business can definitely be an interesting option.
3. Work mentor
I could have said mentor in general, but since we write about HR-related topics here at AIHR Digital, I chose to say work mentor. What I mean by that is to have your older workers stay on (part-time) as a mentor for other (younger) employees.
Not only can they transfer important skills, but they can also share their extensive working life experience with them. Something that, in a time where employees increasingly value their professional development and having someone to mentor them is almost a competitive advantage.
4. Jockey coach
This is a fantastic example I heard when I was talking with my boss the other day. A friend of his is in the horse racing business and it turns out that she found a fantastic, retired, guy to coach her jockeys.
On a slightly broader note, older workers can be excellent (sports) coaches. They’ve got a lot of experience under their belts, often in combination with a lifelong passion for the game.
Yes, I’m serious. Age diversity in the workplace has many benefits: it creates skill diversity, opens the mind, and, perhaps most importantly, makes us nicer people. As a result, employee performance goes up and turnover goes down.
Therefore, if you have older people applying for an internship, don’t instantly discard them based on their age. The courage they show just by applying – and wanting to learn something completely different from what they’ve done so far – should be a reason to at least find out more about them.
Oh, and watch Robert De Niro in The Intern (trailer just below).
Not that I want to offend anyone, but it sometimes seems to me that knowing how to write and spell well is something that the older generations simply know better.
And the arrival of emoji’s certainly isn’t doing our writing skills – or our vocabulary – any good…
Editing and or proofreading jobs, therefore, can be a great gig for older workers, especially if they like to read (and write).
7. (Employer) Brand Ambassador
If you’ve got happy, mature talents in your company they could be fantastic employer brand ambassadors, especially if they’ve been with the company for a long time.
Their stories, from the moment they started right until their (almost) retirement, are real and will definitely help others relate to your employer brand.
8. Tour guide
In the small village I come from in the Netherlands, we’ve got an open-air museum. It features a bakery from way back in the day, a blacksmith’s workshop, a woodwork cabinet, etc.
A few years ago, we had our annual family weekend and, indeed, it included a guided tour of said open-air museum. Our tour guide turned out to be one of the most enthusiastic and vital 80 something year-olds I have ever met.
The older the wiser they say. While this may not always be true, I think for some things it is. Like, for example, knowing how to deal with delicate situations between families or (ex) partners.
Over the years, older workers often have developed extensive soft skills such as listening, communication, and problem-solving skills, all of which are extremely valuable for mediator roles.
10. Customer service representative
Most companies have many different customers, including older people. What better way to create customer engagement than by having them talk to someone they can relate to?
Besides, just like it’s good to get different perspectives on your UX, it’s also good to have different perspectives on the customer service your organization is providing.
Again, this is a good example of a job where years of experience in the field, for example as a legal worker or an accountant, come in handy. Both individuals and companies will hire mature talents for advice, hence offering older workers the flexibility of choosing what project they want to work on and when.
12. Virtual assistant
Another great example of a true, 21st-century job that offers a lot of flexibility. Older workers with, for instance, relevant administrative or technical experience can continue putting this to use from the comfort of their home and on their own terms.
13. The sky is the limit
I could list many more examples of best jobs for older workers, but the idea of this article is to give you an idea about the wide range of possibilities. As long as people want to stay active and do something they enjoy, pretty much any job can qualify as ‘best’.
Still, I’m curious to find out what job you would add to the list, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments!
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