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28th June 2023

Supporting the Ageing Workforce

The population in the UK is aging quickly, and therefore, so is our workforce. Today’s workplaces are multi-generational, with Gen Z’s all the way up to Baby Boomers represented. Employees in their later years offer valuable experience and expertise to companies, but in order to benefit from these advantages, it’s essential that organisations support their ageing workforce.

Supporting the Ageing Workforce 1

The Office for National Statistics (1) have projected two key trends within the UK population across the next two decades:

  • The percentage of the population aged 16-64 will significantly decrease
  • The percentage of the population aged 65+ will significantly increase

These effects aren’t confined within the UK, with a report by the United Nations (2) projecting that the percentage of the global population aged 60+ is growing faster than all younger age groups and is expected to double between 2017 and 2050.

These changes will impact the typical working age profile, with workers retiring at a later age than previously considered the norm. Some workers will embrace these changes; taking the opportunity to continue using and developing their unique skills and strengths, or to maintain a steady income as the Government continues to gradually increase the state pension age. However, employers will also need to embrace these changes, as they will have a greater reliance on the ageing workforce remaining at work to counter the decrease in the population of younger workers, or else they could face significant decreases in their performance as an organisation.

One of the greatest challenges older employees will face as they stay in work beyond the age of 65 are the discriminatory stereotypes that suggest they are less valuable and perform poorer in their jobs compared to younger workers (3). Employers will need to challenge these stereotypes to prevent the ageing workforce from feeling pressured or expected to retire, not only to support older employee wellbeing but to prevent an effect on performance as less younger workers will be available.


Ageist stereotypes suggest that older workers have poorer performance, resulting in employers generally having less faith in their productivity (4). But the analysis of several studies exploring the links between age and productivity has proven this untrue, and actually suggested productivity improves with age (5).

Particularly, there is an assumption that older workers cannot match the cognitive abilities of their younger colleagues. Whilst ageing has undeniable biological effects, unless a person is suffering from an impairment or disease that impacts cognition, a decline in cognitive ability isn’t typically evident before the age of 70+ (6). Especially within roles that require a high cognitive demand, research has identified that employee performance did not vary with age across workers ranging from age 21-67 (7).

By having an awareness of this research, employers should proactively support their older workers and challenge the ageist stereotypes that suggest they are less capable at performing their job.

Supporting the Ageing Workforce 2


It’s also important to acknowledge the strengths associated with older age within the working environment. By viewing older working populations as a demographical group with unique skills and strengths, employers can recognise the ways in which their performance as an organisation would be impacted if the ageing workforce retired at the age which was previously considered the norm.

Some of the strengths associated with older age within the workplace, as identified by research include:

  • Older workers tend to experience less work-related burnout (8), particularly because older workers are more successful at using stress management strategies to reduce feelings of emotional exhaustion and cynicism at work (9)
  • Organisational Citizenship Behaviours (OCB), referring to the voluntary completion of beneficial work-related tasks that are not part of the worker’s formal job description, are more common in older workers, whilst counterproductive behaviours tend to be less common in older age (10)
  • Older employees experience high levels of job satisfaction (11), which is key for employee motivation


The Impact team is passionate about promoting inclusivity and supporting clients in challenging stereotypes at the workplace. We design and deliver bespoke training and team development programmes to help organisations establish ways in which they can create and promote safe and inclusive work cultures where individuals can thrive. We also offer 1-1 and team coaching support to clients and organisations. To find out more about how we can support you and your organisation, please click here to get in touch with us.


1: Office for National Statistics: Overview of the UK population: March 2017

2: United Nations: World Population Ageing report (2017)

3: Marchiondo, L., Gonzales, E., & Williams, L. (2017): Workplace age discrimination

4: Thorsen, S. et al. (2012): The association between psychosocial work environment, attitudes towards older workers (ageism) and planned retirement

5: Waldman, D., & Avolio, B. (1986): A meta-analysis of age differences in job performance. Journal of applied psychology, 71(1), 33.

6: Verghese, J. et al. (2014): Motoric cognitive risk syndrome: multicountry prevalence and dementia risk.

7: Costa, G., & Sartori, S. (2007): Ageing, working hours and work ability

8: Brewer, E., & Shapard, L. (2004): Employee Burnout: A Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between Age or Years of Experience

9: Johnson, S. et al. (2013): Customer stressors in service organizations: The impact of age on stress management and burnout

10: Ng, T, & Feldman, D. (2008): Long work hours: A social identity perspective on meta-analysis data

11: Schabracq, M. (2003): The handbook of work and health psychology