How old is an older worker?

Exactly how old is an older worker and when are their most productive years?

Personnel Today’s exclusive NOP-conducted research of nearly 1,000 people finds some consistency in the responses from the different age groups, but with some subtle differences.

On average, the public cited 62 as the age they would generally consider someone at work to be old. However, 15-24 year olds classed older workers as those aged 59. The 55-64 year olds put it at a few years higher, citing 65 as the definition of an older worker. HR respondents defined older workers as 64 and over.

These views are quite different to the Government’s – a recent report by the National Audit Office defined older workers as those aged 50 or above.

Overall, the public believes that their best working year – that is, the age at which they produce their best output – is 39. Those respondents aged over 45 believe their best years were in their early 40s, while younger people believe it is mid-30s, and a fifth felt they produced their best output in their 20s. Those aged over 65 said that 43 was their optimum age.

The majority of HR respondents believe employees work most effectively in their 40s, although a significant minority (21 per cent) said it was in their 30s.

When questioned why, people cited having more experience and knowledge in their 40s, a more mature and sensible attitude, and having perhaps achieved a sought-after promotion. Having children that were now grown up was also given as a factor.

On the flip side, being physically fitter and more enthusiastic were given as reasons why people in their 20s might have the edge on older workers.

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