Headlines about the “big quit” and the “great resignation” have dominated the news recently. Unquestionably, the labour shortage is real for both lower-skilled jobs and knowledge workers.
Regrettably, employers continue to overlook one of Canada’s growing and sustainable resources, its aging demographic. Businesses fail to take advantage of the fastest growing segment of the population — people over age 55 who are talented, capable and interested in work, yet who are ignored due to unconscious age bias.
The world is aging, and Canada is no exception. As of July 2021, there were 7,081,792 Canadians aged 65 and older. Add 5,307,066 for Canadians between the ages 55 and 65 and you arrive at 12,388,858, or 32.3 per cent of Canada’s total population!
Thanks to technological and medical advances, healthier food choices and access to alternative lifestyle options, the “longevity dividend” is here to stay. The general population is living 30 years longer than at the beginning of the 20th century. That’s the equivalent of another adult lifetime.
Nonetheless, most policy and business practices cling to the age of 65 as a marker for retirement, an age that was established in the 1930s when the average lifespan was 62 years. How is it that almost 100 years later, we continue to use 65 as a benchmark when a child born today has a life expectancy of 100? It’s absurd.
Canada is due for a rethink when it comes to age. None of life’s traditional milestones hold true today. Leaving home after university, getting married, having children and retiring all happen much later in life, or not at all.
Unlike the “big quitters,” many older adults who have longer lifespans want the option to remain in the workforce to complement retirement savings or ensure that they have enough money to fund their extended lives. Maintaining an archaic narrative about what it means to age in the 21st century suggests overlooking the untapped potential that Canada needs. Today’s older demographic is more active, more tech savvy, less dependent and better educated than previous generations.
This past March, the World Health Organization published its first global report on ageism. This is not coincidental. As the report indicates, one out of every two persons globally is ageist against older persons. Ageism is so pervasive and insidious, not to mention socially acceptable, that it goes largely unnoticed.
It was small business week from Oct. 17 to 23. An hour-long session on DEI, hosted by one of Canada’s premier banks, failed to mention age, except once, when it was associated with “disability.” In another business event, an entrepreneur advising on language to use when pitching to investors suggested using “language that a seven-year-old or a grandma might understand.” Both examples perpetuate a negative bias about the potential of an aging population.
The moment has come to re-examine age bias and start including it in DEI strategies. Bringing older adults back into the workforce is one answer to the current talent shortage. Extended working lives create benefits for everyone. Individuals experience improved physical and mental well-being. Employers profit from loyal, engaged employees who bring guidance, expertise and balance. The economy enjoys increased spending, income tax and charitable contributions.
It’s time to remove your ageist blindfolds, Canada! Viewing aging through a 21st-century lens will be a win-win for workforces and older adults alike.
Read the complete article from Toronto Star here
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Leigh Mitchell is a Diverse Talent Recruiter/Promoter and Employer Brand Strategist. As founder of Bee Happy HR Co. Leigh manages the client experience and builds buzz for diversity-driven brands. Bee Happy HR is proudly known as the “Queen Bees” of recruiting and retaining women within workplaces. Leigh supports business owners, busy recruiters & HR departments to provide a variety of HR and talent promotion services with a certified team of experts in her Bee Happy HR Hive. Leigh is also the founder of Women in Biz Network, she coaches clients, speaks with influential guests on her Time to Thrive Podcast, curates mentorship initiatives, promotes Women in Biz Network’s vetted diversity-driven career board, and delivers skill-building events to a variety of audiences. Leigh has worked with brands such as Microsoft Canada, SAGE, TELUS, TD Canada Trust, Staples Canada, and Chevrolet Canada throughout her career. Leigh has been featured in the CBC News, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Canadian Living, Wall Street Journal, and a speaker at numerous industry events.
Sara Bibb is a certified HR Leader and our Director at Bee Happy HR Co. She is a professional and certified Human Resources Professional. You will think she is part of your team because she takes pride in serving her clients and getting the best solution to the HR issues they are experiencing in their business. She excels in her superior communication skills and relationship-building skills with everyone she works with. She completed her post-graduate program in Human Resources Management at Seneca College and obtained her Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) designation in 2009. Sara discovered that smaller companies have the same HR issues as larger ones, but without the professional HR resources to handle them. What else was there to do? She started MKS HR Consulting and became the HR Department for Small Business. Sara is also the HR Mentor for Women in Biz Network.