The Value of +50 Workers in the Labor World

Elizabeth Isele, CEO of  The Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship, United States of America, tells how people over 50 years old are increasingly becoming a workforce which creates value as well as successful entrepreneurs. The contribution of senior workers in diverse teams and their role in technology development.

—Why thinking about people over 50 is a good bet?

—Because they are the future of the economy. They grow in number very quickly: each year, their number increases an equivalent of 3.2% of the global population, compared to the rest of the population, which increases at a 0.8% rate. The senior community contributes to the economic growth in all environments where they act, whether as part of the workforce of organizations or by developing enterprises. By 2050, the contribution to economy of people over 50 will triplicate. Fighting ageism (prejudice and discrimination due to the age of the employees) represents extremely profitable business opportunities. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), people over 50 who remain at their jobs may represent a contribution of USD3.5 trillions to the economy of OECD’s member countries. And these trends keep growing. For instance, the number of people who starts their business after the age of 50 has increased by 15% from 2008 worldwide.

There is the myth that important entrepreneurs are only young people. How are entrepreneurs of this age group?

—A person who starts a business after 50 is three times more capable of launching a successful start-up than a 30-year old young person. Out of all the new businesses of the world, 70% were launched by people over 50. And they remain throughout time.

The other aspect of entrepreneurship and older people that is worth mentioning is that it is not only about launching a new business: it is about creating jobs and driving local and global economy. Even banks are starting to realize that senior people are great as loan beneficiaries. This is so not only because they are successful entrepreneurs but because they are very responsible at the time of repaying the money.

Those who are 50, 60 or 70 and launch a business that is not successful will do anything they can to repay the initial debt. Instead, younger individuals often prefer to file for bankruptcy. As evidence of this, the European Union created the 50+ Entrepreneurship Platform to provide financial education and public policy support to help older people start their business. The reason for this is that these enterprises give jobs to young unemployed persons. In brief, it is a win-win situation.

What may a person in the mature age contribute, for instance, to the technology world?

—People should not be pigeonholed. If you look at millenials and the new generations, the goals are the same. Young people may contribute many ideas; senior people know how to catalyze them and turn them into action. We, adults, are creative, we know the market, we understand competition and we have already been working all our lives. It is always crucial to respect the other and value their knowledge. When ideas are discussed in intergenerational teams to see why they may work or not, people of all ages work together to find a sustainable solution. It is important to know how to innovate and reinvent. 

Which are the benefits of a multi-generational work environment?

The companies and undertakings of senior people are for everyone. It is a way to enter in a community in general and hire employees to help them progress. Workforces that comprise by people of different ages create a more productive and profitable economy and help increase the GDP per capita. This policy is supported by many data; it is not adopted just to be nice. It is an economic imperative. It is about capitalizing the experience both of senior and young people and bring their experiences together. For instance, Barbara Beskind saw a TV interview with David Kelley, the founder of Ideo, a global Silicon Valley company that creates positive impact through design. Kelley spoke about the importance of having a diverse design team. Barbara was so impacted that she sent him a letter offering to work there and got the job after having turned 90, and started working there, in Silicon Valley, where employees are even below 30 years old. Beskind is part of the creative team of that company in which she not only designs but gives her opinion on the products developed for senior people.

Which matters are pending regarding senior employment? 

—I believe we need to boost the senior economy much more. We have seen that it is productive and profitable. Then, the question is: Why don’t companies make marketing for this huge market? It is a great challenge with countless opportunities. Another thing is to give adults roles in a world where artificial intelligence is in vogue. We have to break the black box: if more senior people were involved, young people would know how to adapt artificial intelligence and make it equal for all ages. I also believe that there should be more financing programs for silver economy initiatives and that, for them to work, they must be part of an ecosystem in which economy is articulated both with society and public policies. That is the way of ensuring sustainability and developing programs of this kind adapted to the cultures and needs of people from different parts of the world.

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