Standing up for Canberra

The Chronicle: A Reflection on the Ageing Population

This month I turn 52.

I feel I'm in the prime of my life - professionally, personally and physically. And I know most Canberrans of my vintage feel the same.

So I was alarmed at this year's Australian Human Rights Commission survey, which found more than one quarter of 50 plus Australians have experienced some form of age discrimination in the workplace and nearly one third of those aged 60 to 64.

One third experienced discrimination when they were applying for a job. And sadly, one third just gave up looking altogether as a result.

Australia has an ageing population.

By 2060, our population is projected to reach 38 million and 14.4 per cent will be over 75.

This is an overwhelmingly positive outcome for our nation. It means we’re living longer and healthier lives.

But we need to ensure those longer and healthier lives are rich and rewarding, with meaningful and active engagement in the workforce until retirement.

The Age Discrimination Commissioner estimates the opportunity cost of the underemployment or unemployment of mature Australians is around $10 billion a year. That's a lot of benefit we're denying ourselves from discriminatory workplace cultures.

But it's not just the economy that benefits.

According to Business Insider Australia, organisations that employ older workers benefit from their:

- Good leadership and communication skills
- Focus on getting the job done because they know what they want to do
- Strong work ethic
- Loyalty, and
- Excellent networks.

Mature workers are good for diversity, productivity and the bottom line.

So next time you are looking for a new team member or wading through a pile of resumes, I encourage you to be age-blind.

And to remember the words of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who wrote in Love in the Time of Cholera that: “Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom.”