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Old is gold

  Tuesday, 17 l 08 l 2010 Source:  The Straits Times   
By: Mary Lim

Senior workers are sought after by companies for their wealth of experience and positive attitude

older workersSingapore is bracing itself for a silver tsunami. According to the Populations Trends 2009 report by the Department of Statistics, one in six residents in Singapore will be 65 years or older by 2020, up from the current one in 11.

This is why an increasing number of companies are tapping on older employees to enhance their workforce. It is a move welcomed by senior citizens as this allows them to continue contributing to the economy while staying engaged and active. After all, studies have also shown that Singaporeans can expect to live for another 20 years beyond the official retirement age of 62.

One way employers such as hotels are retaining their older workers is through re-employment. This allows the latter to stay with their employer in the same or even a different job until they are 65, instead of having to seek alternative employment.
Ms Cecilia Chia, human resources director of The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, says: “Senior citizens comprise over 35 per cent of our workforce, and they are employed mostly in departments such as stewarding, laundry and housekeeping.”

At the Pan Pacific Hotels Group, which operates properties such as Parkroyal on Beach Road and Pan Pacific Singapore, senior citizens make up 11 per cent of the staff strength, and they take up positions in housekeeping, culinary and even technical services.

As Ms Cheryl Ng, the group’s public relations manager, points out: “Older workers add value with the wealth of knowledge they have accumulated after being in the workforce for so many years. They also help coach and mentor the juniors at their departments. Some even became the hotel’s brand ambassadors and inspire colleagues with their career success.”

Baby boomers are also sought after by the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where re-employment for current staff is subject to the individual’s performance and health and the availability of jobs. Upgrading programmes for older workers, including re-skilling, computer literacy, employability and mentoring, are also available for these employees.

Ms Esther Tan, SGH’s human resource director, says: “All nurses who reach the age of 58 will meet with our director of nursing, Associate Professor Lim Swee Hia, to discuss retirement plans, as well as job and training opportunities.” To attract or retain their older workers, many companies take steps to ensure their work environment is elder-friendly.

At SGH, older workers with high blood pressure are advised to refrain from climbing ladders and are taught proper lifting techniques for heavy items. Motorised trolleys are used to facilitate the transfers of patients such as from the wards to the operating theatre.

Fastfood chain KFC, which offers senior workers roles in supply base, lobby or cashiering, has a user-friendly training and rating system. Known as Star 2000, it is used to train even educationally subnormal or staff with disabilities.

The company’s marketing director, Ms Virginia Ng, explains: “Training incorporates pictorial aids such as cooking instruction manuals, hands-on demonstrations to improve understanding on food preparation and cash registers with pictures of food items on the keys.”

Older workers have also won praise for their positive work values. Ms Chia sums it up: “They turn up for work promptly, avoid taking medical leave unnecessarily, and enjoy learning. Indeed, they are a source of inspiration for younger staff.”

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