The Blog - Where Business Collides with Human Nature

Hiring Older Adults – Risky or Beneficial?


Considering there is a growing abundance of ‘older people’, does dementia, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and other health issues increase risks when hiring them? Is it worth the risk?

According to the CDC, only 21.6% of people over 65 say their health is fair or poor which leaves a majority with average, good or excellent health.

Does the experience, wisdom and maturity they bring outweigh the risk of potential health issues? Sandra has a few thoughts!

Food for thought from Sandra:

Although my friends and I make jokes about entering middle age, we are all in our 70s except one 82-year-old, so we probably qualify as "older adults." We have all held jobs with varying responsibilities. One who is a tad bit younger works at a pizza place, but she only does that because she is bored staying home. (Does the expression "tad bit" date me? lol, lol, lol). Another 85-year-old friend has published dozens of  books and is still successfully publishing novels. 

I write for content platforms. Partly because I need the income and partly because like my other friend, I need something to do besides clean the oven.

hiring-older-adults-funThe point is, anyone hiring an older person is going to have a very diverse pool of experience to draw from; and the individuals they hire will need much different motivation than younger workers. If we are in the job market when we are elderly, we are either bored, have financial needs, or just like to be around people that aren't in our age group. That's my take, anyway, based on the people I know.

I don't want to generalize too much, but as a whole, we "older adults" also have much different skill sets, so any potential employer is going to have to look at training, as well as resistance to newer ways of doing things, rather than the "tried and true" ways with which we are familiar. 

Of course, it all depends on what age group you're calling "older." 

Dementia itself isn't a disease although the word is commonly used that way. It refers to a collection of diseases that impair a person's ability to reason and think, and eventually destroys their ability to care for themselves. Each disease, such as Alzheimer's, has a different cause, and each progresses in a slightly different way, but each has the same prognosis. Each is progressive and terminal, and there is no cure. 

If an older person continues to work, the work usually strengthens their mental abilities, and potentially delays the onset or severity of some dementia. (use it or lose it???) Most dementias destroy short-term memory first, so skills learned when the person was young remain. There's work they can do before everything is gone. This, I think, would apply to family-owned businesses in which an aging family member is given some kind of meaningful role. I don't know???  The other application would be those who work from home, like me, that can work on days when their minds and bodies allow them to. 

TMI, I'm sure, lol


A Note from Mike:

Over the decades I have hired thousands from age of 14 ½ to 76 years of age. I found the ‘older adults’ to be committed, honest, generous, patient and good natured. I look back and consider myself honored for those more mature and experienced folks to have enough patience with my intense self as I focused on doubling sales (over and again). Sandra’s advice about training and ‘old ways’ vs ‘new ways’ is somewhat true but does not eliminate them as a candidate.

What I appreciated from the ‘older adults’ (back when I was a younger man) was how there were no games, no hype or second guessing. I also appreciated their motivation because they did not work for glory, control or ego… they enjoyed the more important things of service and ensuring smiles.

I wanted to share Sandra’s thoughts with you because there is a rumor about how difficult it is to find good people in this market of low unemployment. While an ‘older adult’ may not seem like the perfect fit for a fast-moving restaurant business, I owned and managed restaurants and found there were special jobs they excelled at.

Consider their wisdom, character, motivation factors and potential positive impact on the culture of your business. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Need a little inspiration? Watch The Intern. (I loved it)


Topics: Hiring Recruiting Leadership Management