Aging workforce, ageist employers: Bruce Newbold and Margaret Denton weigh in


“Ageism is one of the greatest barriers older workers face seeking employment,” sociology professor emeritus Margaret Denton writes.

Seniors over the age of 85 are the fastest growing age group in Canada, according to the latest census data released by Statistics Canada last week.

That age category grew by 12 per cent from 2016 and is expected to triple in the next 25 years.

Experts say it’s something that needs to be considered in planning by various governments, as an older population will impact many things including health care and labour.

“We are going to see a shrinking of the labour force ultimately and more older people over 65 and that has implications for our political environment, for health and pensions and the labour force,” Bruce Newbold, professor in the School of Earth, Environment & Society, told Global News.

“We’re already seeing that more and more people are continuing to work past 65 — some because they need to, some because they want to,” he explained.

Some employers have faced challenges finding qualified worker because there aren’t enough applicants or the applicants aren’t qualified. Hiring older Canadians could be a good way to address some of these, but actual practices don’t always align with this, according to another McMaster expert.

“Ageism is one of the greatest barriers older workers face seeking employment,” professor emeritus in the Department of Sociology Margaret Denton wrote in an op-ed published in The Hamilton Spectator.

“Employers mistakenly believe that older workers are less productive. Further, there is often a mismatch between the skills and experience that older workers bring and the employment opportunities available.”

But older adults bring many skills and attributes to the workplace, including maturity, strong work ethic and lower turnover rates, she said.

“It is not difficult to see an opportunity here for employment of older workers who meet many of the challenges faced by employers with the skills and attributes they bring to the job. Older workers can play a critical role in training the next generation of workers and there is evidence that mixed age teams in the workplace are more productive than workers of the same age.”