The experience of being an older worker in an organization: A qualitative analysis

Stanimira K. Taneva*, John Arnold, Rod Nicolson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


This qualitative study with 37 older workers from 10 employing organizations in 2 countries (United Kingdom and Bulgaria) and 2 industrial sectors (healthcare and ICT) identifies key themes around workers' conceptualizations of being an older worker and aging at work, and the types of organizational support they considered most beneficial in late career. The study integrates current fragmented theories around work performance and well-being in late career and also introduces new concepts in this context. We find that overall older workers are likely to view their late career more in terms of development than decline. This is reflected in their positive perceptions of themselves and their conceptualizations of beneficial age-related changes such as ability to see the big picture and freedom to speak frankly. Many of these stem from their accumulated knowledge and experiences, and valuing meaning and contribution over career advancement. Although some concern with coping and getting by is evident (we call this surviving), interviewees were able to articulate many ways in which they felt they were thriving at work. We identify 9 types of organizational support perceived by these older workers as most desirable (whether or not available). Four concern intrinsic features of work, 3 are to do with social integration and respect, and 2 concern extrinsic factors. Hence there is much that organizations can do apart from retirement programs and flexible work options to enable workers in late career to thrive and survive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-414
Number of pages19
JournalWork, Aging and Retirement
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


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