Why seniors often make great employees

Patrick Campbell and Mary Conway, instructors for Passport to Employment, a program on P.E.I. that helps Islanders find work later in life, say many employers are recognizing the benefits of hiring older workers.

Older workers may be surprised at how easily their skills transfer to other jobs

Patrick Campbell and Mary Conway, instructors for Passport to Employment, say about 1,200 mature Islanders have gone through the program since it began in 2007. (Shane Ross/CBC)

A retired dentist who became a woodworker. A fisherman who went into retail. A teacher who had so many varied skills they could do pretty much anything they wanted.

Patrick Campbell and Mary Conway say those are just a few examples of post-retirement success stories they've seen. 

Campbell and Conway are instructors for Passport to Employment, a program on P.E.I. that helps Islanders find work later in life. They say many seniors are coming out of retirement to work out of necessity or just to keep busy.

They said older workers are often surprised at how easily their skills can transfer to other jobs. Teachers, for example.

"They don't realize all the other transferable skills they have in the classroom and with parents," Campbell said.

They've done everything that was on the fridge that they were going to do in retirement and they want to be busy.— Patrick Campbell

"Conflict management, supervising, customer service, you name it, they do it and all these skills are transferable. So once they realize what they have in terms of transferable skills, it opens a whole venue for them to go back and find work of stuff that's of interest to them."

And they say employers are recognizing the benefits of hiring older workers. Here are some reasons they say older people often make great employees.

Loyalty, experience

Chances are, they're not going to bolt the minute something better comes up, Campbell says.

"Loyalty is a big thing in today's world because people, you know the younger group, tend to just get into something a little bit and shift jobs very quickly whereas the older folks are looking in essence of five to 10 years. They're not looking to switch as quickly."

Mature workers can bring valuable life experience to jobs in places such as hardware stores. (Shutterstock/Tyler Olsen)

Older workers not only bring work experience, they say, but life experience. Who better to work at a hardware store than someone who has been doing their own home repairs for 30 years?

"Older workers bring in so much experience to the mix in almost every area in their daily life," Campbell said.

"This experience can be transferred over into wherever they go. A lot of times they can have an older person just jump right in the job because they have so much experience in life beforehand."

Strong work ethic

They've been working their whole lives, so they know the drill. Hard work is likely nothing new.

"They're very dependable and responsible," Campbell said.

"If you want to have somebody there for seven o'clock in the morning we always find that the older group are there at quarter to seven."

Though they may not be as physically strong as they used to be, they are usually keen to learn new skills, he says.

Positive attitude

Some seniors may not be working because they need to, but because they want to.

"They're glad to get back to work," Campbell said. "They've done everything that was on the fridge that they were going to do in retirement and they want to be busy."

Older workers enjoy the social aspect of working, and it can show in their positive attitude, Conway says. (Shutterstock)

That's why they're probably fine with making minimum wage if it means they get to experience something new.

"You make $235,000 as a dentist and suddenly you're looking at 13, 14 dollars an hour, but it's because they want to be doing something, want to try something different," Campbell said.

Conway says older workers are grateful for the opportunity to work, and it's reflected in their attitude.

"I think one of the things that they look for is the social aspect because once they retire the feeling of not being needed anymore is really real. So I think that when they come to our program ... it gives them some purpose in life."


Older workers may have more free time than their younger counterparts. They're usually available on short notice, and are still around when younger workers return to school or move away. This can be particularly useful in tourism-related jobs, Campbell says.

"At the end of the season, the older workers are going to be there to be able to fill in, keep things going," he said.

"They have a backup should somebody not show up. They always know that the senior is going to be the one they could call on."

Passport to Employment has helped about 1,200 mature Islanders re-enter the workforce since it began in 2007, Campbell says. Its next program begins May 21.

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