Overheard

Paul Irving on the advantages of creating a multigenerational workforce

Innovators share ideas with WorkingNation Overheard at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2021
By Laura Aka
October 19, 2021

The pandemic has exacerbated the impact of age bias, according to Paul Irving, chairman at the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. “Older workers have had the experience of being reemployed later than others, and oftentimes, not successfully being reemployed at all.”

WorkingNation sat down with Irving at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2021 in Beverly Hills as part of our #WorkingNationOverheard interview series. With Charting a New Course as the guiding theme, thought leaders and innovators shared ideas about the changing economy, worker development, education, tech, philanthropy, and more.

“We have a real issue to tackle. AARP has some very recent data that suggests that the ageism—anti-older age bias—was really at its highest levels in something like 20 years,” says Irving. “At the same time, we know that that older people want to work longer in general, need to work longer, both for financial reasons and for reasons of challenge and ongoing stimulus. We know that they need to be able to have flexible work lives and employers just are not responding quickly enough to those needs.”

Irving says that the idea that older people are unable to learn new skills is unfounded. He notes that employers should be willing to invest in continued learning for the older workforce, not just young employees. Additionally, with lower birth rates and increased longevity, Irving says the multigenerational workforce is “a beautiful thing.”

“I think any advanced employer, any employer thinking about competitiveness as the century progresses, has got to think about the potential of combining young people and older people,” says Irving.

“It gives us the opportunity to capitalize on the skills, talents, and attributes of people of all ages—the combination of the risk-taking characteristics, creativity, and innovative thinking of young people and the wisdom, judgment, experience, the ability to navigate complex business environments, understanding the possibilities of multi-sectoral problem solving that really only comes with the wisdom of age.”

He says as people move through life, it’s important that they are contributing to their financial wellness. “Ensuring that older adults, and frankly, just as important, young people preparing for older age are in reasonably good shape financially.”

Irving says age is a universal denominator. “The fascinating thing about conversations—unlike race, gender, religion, or political affiliation—aging is the thing that we all share. We all have in common.”

Click here to learn more about Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging.

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