Older Workers Offer “Soft Skills” to Employers

With inflation taking a bite out of “fun money” spending for seniors on a fixed income, many older adults take jobs once reserved for teens and young adults in retail, food services, and hospitality.  Older job seekers not only value the added dollars to spend on the little extras they enjoy, but also the social engagement leaving home to work provides – and employers benefit from the “soft skills” many mature adults bring to their workplace. 

According to a recent USA Today report, in retail, Baby Boomers (aged 59 to 77) made up 23 percent of all shift hours last year, up from 20 percent in 2020.  Generation X (43 to 58) employees comprised 21 percent of working hours, up from 20 percent.  Seven percent of applicants hired by retailers in March 2023 were 50 or older, up from 6 percent in 2022.  

Higher pay draws older adults to these jobs and helps to ease the labour shortages in restaurants, retail, bars, and fast food services.  While older workers enjoy the extra income, they also benefit by learning new skills and interacting with people of different ages and backgrounds.  

Hiring mature workers offers benefits for employers too.  Older adults tend to be more punctual and dependable, less likely to job hop and call off work less often than younger workers who may be juggling childcare.  Older workers may also be more flexible about working weekends or night shifts and are less likely to require a wage of $20 per hour or more.   The “soft skills” mature employees bring also draw employers.  More varied experience, refined communication skills, and perhaps a longer fuse can help create a stable, pleasant environment for employees and customers. 

Now that the pandemic has relented, many older adults who were isolated during lockdowns are eager to engage socially.  With the flexibility of a part-time restaurant or retail position, more than 21 million Americans worked part-time voluntarily in February 2023, up from 17.8 million in December 2020.