Where opinions matter – seniors are entitled to a stronger voice

Seniors, with plenty of acquired wisdom, often feel they can’t speak out or are mostly ignored.

Two recent round-table responses: “Nobody wants to listen.” 

“You’ll be called old fuddy-duddies”.

“Don’t dare say you hate tattoos or keep left when you’re walking,” laughed a friend, half-jokingly.

Largely, seniors are not listened-to by politicians, employers and, of course, younger generations. It’s an ages-old complaint.

This newspaper, of course, and talkback radio are two regular forums where seniors are not only heard but encouraged to give opinions, spread their words, ask their questions and advance their concerns.

But, with our ageing population and the ranks of seniors burgeoning, seniors are entitled to a stronger voice.

Who is prepared to listen and take seniors’ views into account in planning the future? Seniors are part of the immediate future and carry knowledge and lessons from the past.

Yes, some viewpoints will be out of touch or wrong but so are the viewpoints of many younger people, planners, politicians and employers. Seniors’ input ought to be in the mix.

From personal knowledge, in workplaces few seniors are asked to talk to the younger brigades. Or asked to come back after they’ve retired to give briefings. Fertile knowledge withers on the proverbial vine.

Of course, not every senior person makes a good lecturer. Nor does every younger person. Nobody wants to hear repeated, long-winded lectures. Managers need to select the right people.

Managers need to monitor proposed senior speakers, as they should do for all speakers, overseeing content (to be concise and relevant) and length of talk.

Seniors carry experience and knowledge and many make entertaining social speakers. Many seniors have a good sense of humour and can poke fun at themselves.

Seniors’ gems can lift spirits and break down age barriers. With the ice broken, younger people may feel open to approaching seniors for advice and information.

Effectively, seniors are discriminated against. With their voices not taken into account, they are being cut out of the big picture in society.

Starting full-time work at age 16, I didn’t have a clue about anything and nobody gave instruction or background briefings. Young workers in all departments on the newspaper learnt on-the-job by bumbling along. And we were introduced to just one or two other workers.

Mistakes were made, lessons learnt. 

Nothing was explained: What’s the job about? Where did it end up? What was the deadline? Who are all these people in the building and what do they do? What’s the company’s objective?

Newcomers weren’t asked for their opinions and were just left to fend for themselves. Youngsters need to be included, to feel useful and encouraged to stay with the firm. 

This is where seniors can be brought in – those still working or recently-retired – for periodic, short briefings. Light-hearted chats with all questions encouraged.

The result: More inclusive workplaces, fewer age barriers and smoother, more effective integration of staff.

Seniors are being discriminated against and tokenism won’t do it. Seniors don’t want to be set-up to make it look good. They need to be treated with respect by colleagues, authorities and social organisations.

Younger people might be surprised what value can come from seniors. Many seniors leave workplaces, sports clubs, social groups and education institutions carrying valuable knowledge and experience.

Many are happy to volunteer to return to workplaces, schools, hospitals, sports and social groups to explain what they have learnt and experienced; the pitfalls and the lighter moments.

You only have to ask.

What do you think?
Email info@haveagonews.com.au with Opinion in the subject line.