I sat up in my seat when this is how Heather Mills (former wife of Paul McCartney) described the famous Beatle recently on Irish TV. It sounded like a teenager looking at an old man and wondering what all the fuss is about. Is that what Paul McCartney is now, ‘just’ an ‘old man’?
I have been taking note recently of an abundance of discussions in Ireland about age, especially, 50 ( and I am firmly in that bunch): the many talented, driven, passionate people being ignored by Recruiters because of their age, speaking sadly and in what can only be described as dazed amazement that while their working life has been extended to 68 yrs (nearly 20 more years of work to go), they are struggling to get heard, to get noticed, to get a reply to their applications or to get in front of a Recruiter for a conversation. A wonderful woman called Jillian Godsil, spoke eloquently about her experience last week on Irish radio. She can be described as educated, intelligent, innovative, creative, hard-working, highly experienced in PR and Marketing including running her own company, publishing books,… coming across as radiant, glowing, wonderful, and yet no interviews, no replies, not a single one. Wake up Recruiters, you are so missing out on major talent due to your own biases and mixed up understanding of the value of older people.
What happened to the value we place on wisdom and experience and on life-work balance. I am not so naïve that I think just because I am ‘old’ I am wise (the good old quote from Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ always springs to mind here: ‘he should have been old before he was wise’). Or just because I am ‘old’ I have higher levels of emotional intelligence or any kind of other intelligence for that matter. I just think that it’s a different stage of life, and one that is highly compatible with working life.
Generally speaking, older people have really good health and energy, don’t drink alcohol excessively especially during the working week, are not caught up in what others think of them, in particular members of the opposite sex (or same sex for that matter) are in a good place in their lives with grown-up children (although there can be the responsibility for aging parents to consider) and bring with them a wealth of experience and learning that cannot be replicated in any other way. What’s to value is an appreciation of life; a sense of knowing where you are and to where you are going; a mindful togetherness, that a lot of older people display and can be less prevalent when we are younger, fast-moving and fast-living. My best boss ever, was in his mid to late 50’s: so wise, so kind, he always took the time. Maybe he was like that in his youth as well as he is still riding a motor bike and is now in his 60’s, I really don’t know, what I do know is that he was an inspiration to me and a wonderful Mentor.
Ireland was always a place for the young , to quote the poet WB Yeats: ‘That is no country for old men. The young in one another’s arms‘. The struggle to value older people goes a long way back but it need not be so now. Balance and diversity, in all things are always good: bring the mentoring, experienced older people together with the open, yearning youth, and see what happens: growth, development, learning. I dearly would love to be known as the guy who sparked a whole new wave of music, no matter how old I am. Rock on Paul!
PS. Just because I am making a case for older people, does not mean that I do not value youth; I value all people, for what we can bring and the value we can add to each other, to our lives and our workplaces. Also, I know how difficult it can be to prove yourself as a younger person, to be accepted and appreciated when you have less experience; this also brings its own struggles but that’s another story.
Anne Marie Crowley BA MSc Dip.Coaching, based in Cork Ireland, is a free-lance Coach and Trainer in the field of behavioural change for individuals and business.
Anne Marie is the founder of Crowley Personal and Business Change.