Managing Work Related Stress: Engaging the older generation


I was really inspired to read in the publication, Toastmasters, of Richard Hendricks, a distinguished member of Wallingford Toastmasters in Seattle who is 101 years young and who has been a speaker for more years than many of us have been alive.

His story made me think about those who are over 50 and tell me that they don’t feel valued and have no satisfaction from life – they say they are too old!  Certainly, if or when someone loses their job, they also lose their personal work identity and this can be extremely challenging.  To get out of bed in the morning and realise that you are no longer a Sales Manager but just a man with a family but no job, is an issue that does need to be managed.

So is age just a ‘numbers game’ or is it more of an attitude and mindset?  Do we really start forgetting things at the age 50 or is this an excuse for being lazy and not keeping our minds active?

A new chapter

Getting older happens to everybody and it should be seen as a new chapter in one’s life.  With the experience of former years, it should be easier to understand how society works and how to better socially interact with others.  The learning that we have gained over 20 or 30 years should have given us an ‘edge’ over younger people who are still only half way up the learning curve.  This is a decided advantage, and we need to use it!

Richard Hendricks has a voice, and uses it.  But we all have voices, yet so many of us remain unheard because we don’t speak loud enough or we think that no one wants to listen. That is a mistake.  It is why people buy books – to read the distilled wisdom of those who have lived before us and have written what they have learned from their work, their passion, their interest. And we buy their books to gain from their knowledge. But you don’t have to write a book – you can talk!

However, if we don’t write and we don’t talk, our experience can be lost and that can be to the detriment of the younger generation who could learn so much from us.  All those years of learning, training and coaching can be lost forever if we fail to pass them on.

You cannot always package experience, sometimes it has to be felt and touched.  I remember going into a flower nursery the other day where I met a salesman who was over 70 years old and with whom I immediately established a rapport.  Here was someone who loved what he did; knew every plant by name and how to make it grow strong and flower. He was enthusiastic and wanted to pass on his knowledge, and I enjoyed every moment.  I thanked him for his time and expertise and you could see him smiling with pride and satisfaction.  I left there thinking what a privilege it had been to speak with him and I was really pleased to see that his company had such a forward-thinking policy of employing older people.

I often wonder why there are not more companies who have a policy of employing mature people and gaining from their skills.  There is the tendency in modern society to believe that youth is everything and experience is of little value, but that philosophy throws away the investment of years of expertise in learning the skill of how to do a particular job really well. It is similar to peeling an orange, throwing away the flesh and keeping the peel. The real value is in the inside, not the outside.

In order to help the young progress more rapidly and achieve their goals, maybe they should think about engaging the services of the older generation as their mentors and they will see how much quicker their interns will grow with the business and in the business. That is the way to really achieve a sustainable difference, and at a lower cost, by utilizing the value of the years.

Now that to my mind, makes good business sense!  Don’t you agree?

Key points:

  • As we go through life, we become more valuable
  • Experience, like books, is distilled wisdom
  • Today’s youth can gain from yesterday’s experts

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

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