Convincing employers to hire older workers is proving tricky

“My mid-day (radio host) is a young 51. She’s considered a baby boomer but she’s chosen to move with the times and has completely made herself applicable to this workforce.”

2). Know what you will and won’t do. Jill Schofield, managing director at executive search firm DHL International, says companies indeed need senior workers to fill leadership roles but they also can’t risk hiring someone who’s wishy-washy about the hours they want to work or how long they plan to stay on the job.

“If I got that (indecisive) attitude from a 35-year-old, I wouldn’t hire them,” says Schofield, who’s based in Calgary. “It’s really important for people who are senior – in age and experience – to know how long they want to work.”

3). Be creative about rewards. Attracting and retaining employees isn’t strictly about economics; not all older employees demand or expect high salaries. Alberta School of Business professor Ian Gellatly notes that many baby boomers aren’t motivated by salary as much as engagement: being exposed to new ideas, getting chances to be involved in the community, being afforded mentorship opportunities through which they can share their experience, talent and wisdom.

“Money is important. But there are so many other needs that can be satisfied through work,” says Gellatly, who specializes in organizational behaviour and human resource management.

4) Innovate. Companies across Canada have found creative ways to leverage the skills of mature employees, as well as those of recent retirees looking to work again.

At Stantec, which provides consulting services in planning, engineering and architecture, senior staffers are assigned to local students (who may also be prospective employees), whom they mentor on the benefits of a career in architecture, engineering and construction, as well as the types of technology and projects inherent to those jobs.

At Seniors For Seniors, a homecare organization with offices in Ontario and Nova Scotia, recent retirees are finding meaningful part-time work as “junior seniors”: providing support, companionship and home services to “senior seniors” (generally age 85 and older) so they can live in their community longer and not be relegated to long-term care.

“We get 20 people a day calling up and looking for work in our Toronto office alone,” says founder Peter Cook, 73.

Others still are taking the reins and hiring themselves. Doug Bruce, The Canadian Federation of Independent Business’s director of research, reports that nearly 60 per cent of CFIB members who own small or medium-sized businesses are, in fact, baby boomers.

Among the self-employed is 68-year-old Patricia Elford. She retired from her educational kinesiology business, Brain Gym, after a bad car accident three years ago, but later returned to the workforce. (Brain Gym focuses on activities and exercises that aim to improve mind and body.)

Elford believes age has actually been an asset in attracting clients.

“I’m grey, I’m about to be 69, and people say, ‘You have so much energy!’ It helps them realize that maybe there’s something to what I’m (teaching),” says Elford, who lives in a Silvera seniors’ community in Calgary. “I’m a walking example of how you don’t have to sit and stare out the window as you get older.”