We are living in an ageing population. Projections forecast by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that ‘in 50 years’ time, there are likely to be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over – a population roughly the size of London.’ 


But how did we get here? Well, an ageing population is predominantly driven by two crucial factors. Improved healthcare services and advancements in medicine mean that life expectancy is increasing, as people are staying alive much longer. But alongside this, there has been a noticeable decrease in fertility: people are having fewer children.


You might be wondering how an ageing population affects the workplace. According to the ONS ‘employment rates have doubled for those aged 65 years and over between 1993 and 2018, and increased by almost one-third for those aged 50 to 64 years.’ In short, we are not only living in an ageing population, we are living in an ageing workforce. 


That’s why it’s important that businesses are prepared, and are putting practices in place to foster an age-friendly culture. We’ve provided some simple hints and tips on how you can make your business more age-friendly. Not only will it benefit older employees, but the rest of your workforce too, and it’ll help make your business more successful and it is particularly useful given the threat to many skilled professions as a result of Brexit – lots of companies are concerned about skill shortages in certain areas which could leave their business exposed.


What exactly is an age-friendly culture?

The term “age-friendly” originates from a World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative that advocates the inclusion of old people. It’s a global movement that aims to protect the rights of the older generation, while creating more age-friendly environments. 


When it comes to creating an age-friendly work environment, it really is very simple. Here are a few things that should be considered:


  • Accessibility – ensure your workplace is suitable for all ages. This may include toilet facilities, desk space, signage etc. Encourage feedback from your employees. 
  • Inclusion – aim for an integrated, diverse workforce that gives equal opportunities to their staff irrespective of age
  • Listen – Foster a culture that listens and responds to the voice of older people, and enables people of all ages to actively participate
  • Be nice –  Do everything you can to ensure your workplace is friendly, respectful and welcoming place for all ages 
  • Flexible working – don’t lose staff with huge amounts of experience by sticking to a five day working week. Consider whether you could offer reduced hours so that older staff can continue working if they choose to, but have more time for their own personal interests outside of work. 


An age-friendly culture is good for business


It might sound like a tenuous link, but it’s true: an inclusive workplace culture is better for business. By implementing facilities that are age-friendly, you’ll be making your business more welcoming for staff, clients and potential new employees. If people entering your business for the first time have a pleasant experience, chances are, they’ll probably want to work with you again. 


Educate managers and senior-level staff


It’s critical that your ethics and values as a business are adopted by the rest of the workforce, and it has to start at the top. In order for such behaviours and attitudes to trickle down, your managers and senior staff have to set a good example first.


Encourage senior employees to talk to older staff members about what they like and what could be improved about your business. Approach the subject with open questions, such as:


  • Are we doing enough to accommodate older employees?
  • What could we be doing differently?
  • How do you rate our facilities? Can they be improved in any way?


Remember to listen and take plenty of notes. Discuss what changes you can make to accommodate their ideas, and alternatives for those which you can’t. 


Then, most importantly, communicate any key points to senior management. Do not place their needs at the bottom of your pile – working lives matter, and you’ll stand a better chance at retaining talented and knowledgeable staff members if you put tangible solutions in place.


Depending on your business, and the type of customers your staff are in contact with on the day-to-day, it might be necessary to facilitate some form of training so that everybody is on the same page and you can truly adopt a people-friendly business.