Older workers have increased value
Just look at the antics of Kwayzar the Seer.
The self-described cyber rapper cavorts on screen with scantily-clad women. See them gyrate by the pool. Listen to the explicit lyrics on his latest release, I Can Still Do It.
Kwayzar became a YouTube sensation with his first rap gig. He need not worry what his parents think about his raunchy performance as they are almost certainly dead. Their son, who they named Stanley Jerry Hoffman, is 84.
The World War II veteran has only just launched his musical career. Others, like the Rolling Stones, are about to embark on a world tour marking 50 years in the business. Rod Stewart, 67 and a grandfather, is still touring when he’s not fathering children.
The Who members Roger Daltrey (68) and Pete Townshend (67) closed the Olympics in London in August.
Clearly, their professed hopes of dying before they get old have not eventuated. Or perhaps it’s all a relative thing. Listen to Kwayzar, whose home is in southern California.
“Writing and producing rap music keeps me busy, keeps me active and keeps me well,” he told local newspaper The Downey Patriot.
“I hope to be an inspiration especially to older people that they too can – and should – still lead productive and this meaningful lives. The whole thing has become a labour of love.”
Day of Older Persons
He must surely qualify as a poster boy candidate for the International Day of Older Persons, marked on October 1. The theme was Longevity: Shaping the Future.
Locally, it prompted Jo Goodhew, Minister for Senior Citizens, to issue a rallying cry of her own, saying attitudes about ageing need to change because older New Zealanders are changing.
“Older Kiwis are a diverse group – the majority are looking to keep active and enjoy life. You only need to look at the number of older people still competing in sports events like New Zealand’s coast-to-coast.
"Older people keep volunteer organisations afloat and contribute to our communities in many ways,” she says.
Among them is Peter Grandiek, who turns 81 this month. Mr Grandiek and his wife Jennifer own a 16ha deer farm in Invercargill, which he still runs.
But on the day we ring he’s not at home – he’s down at the local velodrome. Mr Grandiek, a former rugby player and harrier, decided to take up cycling in 2007.
“I thought I had to do something for my fitness,” he says after arriving home from a one-hour spell in which he covered 25km. He does so at least twice a week.
He has something of a reputation to maintain. This year he won seven gold medals out of the seven races he competed – including New Zealand fastest and world fastest in his age group (80-plus) – at the New Zealand Masters Games. He wants to better that record when next year’s event is held in Wanganui in February.
“You’ve just got to go faster,” says Mr Grandiek, who had a triple bypass four years ago.
He came from his native Holland in 1954 as an assisted migrant. “When I arrived here, my possessions were nothing but one suitcase. You had to put your head down,” he says, explaining his attitude to work.
He still maintains ties with his heritage and is president of the local Dutch club. Also a JP, he says he does not take any notice of how many hours he puts in on the farm, and that is probably wise.
If he’s not tending to the 80 Canadian elk on their farm, there’s the 20x12m vegetable garden that needs his attention. It keeps him and Jennifer self-sufficient for nine months of the year.
Mr Grandiek says staying fit gives him a lot of pleasure. “It’s having some aim in life and something to do and being positive.”
He does not, however, consider himself a hard worker. “I think I like to take it easy. The more you’ve got to do, the easier it is.”
Older people will, by default, be an increasingly important and valuable part of our workforce, says the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
It notes that by 2020, one in four members of the New Zealand labour force is expected to be older than 55.
Among them, no doubt, will be members of the judiciary, whose compulsory retirement age was raised from 68 to 70 in 2007. The decision brought New Zealand into line with comparative overseas countries, including Australia and Britain.
As well, it was argued, raising of the age would encourage the recruitment of senior legal practitioners to the bench.
The ministry says older workers bring many gains to the workplace, including:
- A strong work ethic.
- Fewer workplace accidents.
- More stability in work teams.
- Less short term sick leave.
- Retention of skills and knowledge.
There is also the dollar value they contribute.
A Statistics NZ income survey for 2011, released this week, notes 574,800 people over 65 in paid work. With an average earnings capacity of $85 a week, that totals $2.541 billion a year.
The life experience older workers bring to the workplace is also valuable, the Employers and Manufacturers Association says.
“It brings better judgment and, not always but often, a calmer head,” EMA manager of advisory services David Lowe says. As well, older, more experienced people tend to work more productively.
He believes you cannot have a generic approach to age-related employment issues. “As we get older, our bodies have time limits – but everyone wears out at a different age.”
Mr Lowe says employers need to bear in mind health and safety aspects, especially as the workforce is ageing.
Mrs Ngatai, who is widowed, works 18 hours a week at Age Concern New Zealand’s Wellington head office. She is, by her own description, an old-fashioned accounts clerk. “But I call myself finance services.”
Mrs Ngatai uses MYOB for her accounting duties and OMS for the payroll. She also types her correspondence on a computer – but hand writes her Christmas cards.
What does she bring to the workforce? “My range of experience and my personality,” she says.
There is more to the work than the money. She does not see work as a daily grind, saying she needs the regimentation of a daily routine.
“Work is good. It’s important you have to do something every day that makes you get up and get on with it.”