Wednesday 18 September 2019

Young at heart: 'I've noticed my friends in their 30s are lazier than those who hit 50'

As nearly half of older workers worry that age may affect their chances of finding a new job, our reporter discovers the routines that help them roll back the years

Fighting fit: Alan Long stays in shape with regular gym sessions. Photo: Arthur Carron
Fighting fit: Alan Long stays in shape with regular gym sessions. Photo: Arthur Carron
Janette O'Rourke with her husband Tom
Norah Casey.

Arlene Harris

There was a time when people had 'jobs for life' and younger employees looked up to their older and wiser colleagues.

But times have definitely changed and in today's workplace, the currency of youth is more powerful than ever. Youth seems to be a coveted prize heralding vitality, energy and innovative ideas. Sure, experience and knowledge are also much needed virtues but the ability to at least appear young and full of life is seen as an advantage.

According to a new study from, almost 50pc of older workers feel that age may have a negative effect on their chances of finding a new job. And with this in mind, 40pc of employees over 50 have considered dyeing their hair, 40pc have taken to the gym while 64pc have started a healthy eating regime.

The survey also revealed that one in four older employees believe they were passed over for promotion due to their age.

Janette O'Rourke with her husband Tom
Janette O'Rourke with her husband Tom

"There's all this talk about millennials being an emerging major workforce in Ireland, which they are, but that's just a question of demographics. I think people often underestimate the value that an older cohort bring to an organisation," says Robert MacGiolla Phadraig of Sigmar Recruitment.

"There's a big question of confidence building. Studies have found that among an older cohort, their self esteem is shaken by the age bias (against older people). A younger cohort tend to be less insecure.

"There are a number of practical things companies can do to ensure older people aren't discriminated against in the workplace," he adds, citing 'reverse mentoring' schemes as an example, where younger employees mentor their older colleagues on the use of technology, social media or other new challenges in the workplace, while the younger person can learn from their experience.

As co-owner of Kay's Flower School in Dublin 8, Janette O'Rourke is her own boss so doesn't have to worry about being upstaged by younger colleagues.

The mother-of-two, who lives in Rialto, believes that although you don't need to look young to be successful, putting your best foot forward is never a bad thing.

"I have always been conscious of my appearance," she says. "I suppose I'm old school and do believe that first impressions last. While I don't believe you have to look young and gorgeous to get far in life, I do think you have to look well-groomed and professional."

Norah Casey.
Norah Casey.

Since turning 50 this year, Janette has become something of a fitness fanatic and puts the extra effort into looking her best.

"I was delighted to turn 50 as I was in a good place in my life," she says. "The business was making a name for itself in Europe, the children were happy and nearly self-sufficient and I had a little more time to spend on myself doing things like having facials and treatments to keep my skin in good condition.

"Then last year I won a competition for personal training sessions at FitLinks Gym in Ballyfermot and decided to give it a go. I got advised on my diet and training was made fun - so I am now up and out three mornings a week at 6am for my workout sessions.

"I definitely think when you hit 50 it is harder to maintain your weight and your shape so I feel my time at the gym definitely helps as I love my food."

Site foreman Alan Long is almost 52 years old and is passionate about staying young at heart. While he says neither he nor his colleagues are likely to resort to dyeing their hair in a bid to stay young, he remains determined to keep fit.

"I do my best to stay in shape and I believe that helps a great deal when it comes to looking and feeling young. I am a lot fitter now than I was when I was younger and I feel really good for my age," he says.

The Dublin man adds that he's become fitter than some of the younger men in his gym.

"I do believe you are as young as you feel and this is proven to me at the gym sometimes," he says. "The young guys that come in are brilliant and really fit but they tend to go at it so hard that they burn themselves out after half an hour or so. Whereas I can keep going longer because I keep a steady pace - and some of the younger lads are surprised that I am a lot older than them.

"When my father was 50, I thought he was ancient, but now I'm passed that age myself, I'm determined to stay looking and feeling young for a long time yet."

Personal trainer Pat Henry notes that as we are living and working longer, many are going to new lengths to stay competitive at work, which is reflected in a rise in his older client base.

"We're getting a lot of people who realise that 40 is the new 20 and their attitude is anything that 20-year-olds can do, we can do," he says.

"We put them on a realistic programme and there's no reason they can't get into shape at 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80. It's been scientifically proven that you can gain muscle at any age with the right training.

"We're seeing a huge increase in older people getting in shape, and they find that it helps them at work as well, particularly with their energy."

The world of glossy magazines and broadcasting may seem like an area where there's even more of a focus on how you look, but businesswoman and publisher Norah Casey (right) says it has less of an impact on workers than you might expect.

"I have never come across a man or woman who has dyed their hair or altered their appearance in a bid to look younger at work," she says. "In fact I would say that in my professional life I am seeing a much bigger increase of over-50s.

"However, on a personal level, I have noticed that my friends who are in their 30s and 40s are lazier than those who hit 50 and suddenly decide they want to climb a mountain or complete an Iron Man challenge."

Sports psychologist Canice Kennedy is 57 years old and is more interested in improving himself physically than aesthetically - but admits that while he has always been fairly fit, he did let things slide for a decade before realising that the big Five-O was looming.

"I played football until I was in my mid-to-late thirties and then gave it up to start coaching," he says. "During this time I put on weight and became quite unfit and it wasn't until my late forties that I realised I needed to take myself in hand and start practicing what I was preaching.

"So I took up swimming and started going to the pool a couple of times a week. I then built that up to five times each week before adding in a few sessions in the gym.

"It took me a while to get back in shape but luckily all of my friends had continued exercising so I always had a bit of encouragement and motivation and I think this is the key - because it's difficult to focus on getting in shape and eating healthily if all of your peers are doing the opposite."

Whatever about dyeing hair or whitening teeth, Kennedy, who works with people of all ages, says exercise and a healthy diet are the most important steps towards looking and feeling younger.

"There is absolutely no doubt about it, if you eat well and exercise regularly, you will feel healthier, fitter, more relaxed, in better form and younger than if you do neither," says the Cork man.

"Exercising and eating well is about more than just looking young, it is a means of adding time and quality to your life. And these days there is such a great availability of places to work out, to walk or to cycle, that there is no excuse for anyone not to get up and start moving."

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life