How to adapt to an ageing workforce

We live in an ageing society, and as people live longer, the proportion of older workers is increasing. 50 is the new 40, right? Employers have a job to do to make sure that they can attract, manage and develop employees as they age.

In this guide, we look at:

Older male sits around a laptop with a younger female colleague and a middle aged male stands next to them.


During the pandemic many older people left the workforce for loads of different reasons. Although the employment rate for 50- to 64-year-olds isn’t yet back to where it was in 2019, it has increased over the past year.  

In 2023, 71.3% of 50- to 64-year-olds are in work, with the average age men leave the workforce being 65.4 and women 64.0. This is likely to increase from May 2026 when the pensionable age for those born in April 1960 or after rises to 67.  

The cost-of-living crisis that we’re all feeling the effects of has meant that increasingly people are continuing to work into their 70s. Many are “unretiring” and choosing to return to work, often part time, as their pensions and savings are insufficient to live comfortably.  

Unfortunately, older workers commonly face prejudice and stereotyping. Even though older employees can be seen as more loyal, more reliable and as having a strong work ethic. They also face negative stereotypes and can be assumed to be less adaptable, less technologically savvy, lacking in physical capabilities, resistant to change and less trainable.  

We need to tackle this stigma otherwise we’re going to lose a huge chunk of the workforce. 

What value can older workers bring to an organisation?

Just because someone is older, it doesn’t mean they’re past it – far from it! Older workers bring a life-worth’s of experience and knowledge that can benefit their colleagues and the organisation as a whole 

An age-diverse workforce brings knowledge-sharing, fresh perspectives and improved problem solving. Older colleagues can also be a good influence and provide mentorship to younger, less experienced team members.  

Speaking to HR Magazine, Jane Storm, chief people officer at Saga, said: “Our younger colleagues really benefit from this experience, and from asking questions based on all that knowledge. 

“In return, our older colleagues continually tell us that they enjoy the new skills and knowledge they pick up from people 30, 40, or even 50 years younger than them.” 

Reducing ageism in recruitment

Three candidates sit on chairs waiting for their job interviews. They are all different ages.

More than a third of 50- to 69-year-olds have felt disadvantaged by their age when applying for jobs throughout the entire process from advert to offer. 

Studies have found that older applicants are less likely to be offered an interview than someone with comparable qualifications and skills. There’s less evidence that age discrimination occurs during the interview stage, with more research needed. But there are things that all employers can do to reduce potential ageism and ensure they’re getting people with the right skills and experience irrespective of age. 

Use inclusive language in job adverts

There are words within job ads that put older people off from applying because they don’t think they will be considered for the role. Phrases such as adaptable, tech-savvy and innovative negatively affect older worker’s perception of whether or not they’ll be a good fit for a job. 

However, using words such as knowledgeable and dependable increases the number of older people who will apply, without putting younger people off.  

Offer flexible working

If you can offer flexible working, include this in the job advert because it has wide appeal. It’s not just a winner with parents and caregivers, many older workers say that flexible working would help them to work for longer.  

Include a diversity statement that specifically mentions age

Emphasise age-inclusivity in your diversity statement and ensure it’s included on job adverts. This will help older applicants to feel like they might fit in and increase the chances of them applying.  

Proactively recruit older workers

You can’t specify in a job advert that you would prefer older workers as that’s also age discrimination. But you can consider where adverts are placed and who will see them.  

Becoming more overtly age-inclusive will open a huge talent pool. Can you afford to miss out? 

The Lincolnshire Co-operative is one company that’s keen to attract and retain older staff. It offers flexible hours and a simple recruitment process using phone interviews. Almost a third of its 2,900 staff are over the age of 55, including 79-year-old Colin Lane who told the Guardian he appreciates the personal interaction involved,  

“I needed an excuse to get out of the house, and what better excuse could you have? It’s got me out meeting people. My mind is more active, my body is more active, and I hope to keep going for as long as possible.” 

Insurance company, Aviva, is another organisation that’s investing in over-50s staff. It estimates that one in three of its employees will be over 50 by 2025 

A younger colleague is working with an older colleague with grey hair.

How to support older employees

The key to attracting and retaining older workers is having policies that actively support employees of all ages.  

Flexible working and part-time working

As we mentioned above, older people are looking for flexible working to help keep them in employment. 42% of part-time workers in the UK are over 50. The media is awash with articles about ‘unretirement’ with older people choosing to return to work on a part time basis. For some people it’s because they can’t afford not to. For others, it’s a chance to keep their mind active, boost their social interaction or top up their pension so they can afford luxuries.  

One way to retain older employees is to enable them to reduce their hours if they need to. This will keep good, experienced staff in your business but also support them with their lives outside work.  

Support workers with caring responsibilities

Aviva has found that one in five mid-life workers is fearful of having to exit the labour market early to care for a loved one.  

Millions of people in the UK are in paid employment whilst also trying to juggle unpaid caring responsibilities. The new Carer’s Leave Act 2023 will become law in 2024, entitling employees to one week’s unpaid leave per year to care for a relative or dependant, whilst being protected from dismissal or any detriment because of having taken this time off.  

Show your employees that you value them and put a support network in place to help them stay in work alongside their other responsibilities.  

Support staff with health conditions

Over half of workers have a long-term health condition when they reach 60. That’s a scary statistic! Putting in place preventative and targeted occupation health, as recommended by CIPD, will support organisations and employees access support to help keep remain active and healthy. This will benefit both companies and employees by helping to keep those with a health condition in work.  

In 2023, almost half a million people aged between 50 and 64 were out of work but would have liked to be in work. Out of those people, 62.1% were economically inactive because of being ‘sick, injured or disabled, with a further 13.5% ‘looking after home or family’.  

If more support was given to these people, could they be in work where they’d prefer to be? 

Grandparent’s leave

In 2021, Saga became the first major UK employer to offer a paid week off for the birth of a grandchild. This is part of the employer’s commitment to showing older employees that they are valued and encourage them to stay with the company. And it was very well received with grandparents jumping at the chance to bond with their new grandchildren and help in those tough first days of parenthood. 

Menopause policies

A middle aged woman sits at a table with medication in front of her. She looks wistful.

Over 80% of women going through menopause (plus those in the trans community) are affected by symptoms which can impact their attendance and productivity at work.  

It’s more than hot flushes and brain fog. For many women, menopause symptoms can be debilitating, and they have caused almost a million women in the UK to leave their jobs. Organisations are losing women at the peak of their careers because of the menopause and it’s creating knock-on effects on workplace productivity, the gender pay gap and gender pension gap.  

Employers can work harder to keep these women from feeling forced out of work by putting menopause policies in place. These policies and associated workplace education can create an open workplace environment where people feel like they don’t have to keep their symptoms hidden away and by making sure the necessary support is in place.  

Visit the Latte Lounge for helpful advice on how to support menopausal women in the workplace. 

Inclusive training and development opportunities

What’s that saying about assume…? Don’t assume that older employees don’t want to upskill or progress in their career. Offer learning and development opportunities to all employees, regardless of age. Those in their 50s could be with your organisation for another 15 to 20 years, why shouldn’t they receive the same opportunities as anyone else? 

And lastly...

As a workforce, we’re only getting older. There are fewer young people to fill the gaps and older people are staying in employment for longer. We need to adapt to the changing landscape and ensure that as employers, we are supporting our employees as they get older so that we can retain the talent and keep our businesses growing and developing.  


For tips on reducing bias in your recruitment process, download our guide to avoiding cognitive bias.