Are Younger Workers Preferable? Decide For Yourself


From personal experience, I can attest that one’s age can significantly affect one’s professional prospects but that this influence is not always positive. The following vignettes present settings with which to judge, ranging from the obvious to the cryptic, the silly to the sublime, depending on whether we’re talking about the age of the firm, the age of the owners or directors, the period of the products or services, or the age of the intended market.

The impact of age can pit maturity against immaturity, foresight against impulse, composure against hunger, and wisdom against good fortune. Longevity and complacency might leave a businessperson vulnerable to the risks taken by younger, riskier competitors. A person with little more than common sense can launch himself from anonymity and obscurity into the limelight and the fortune of a lifetime. Age is more than just a number; it may be a frame of mind to express one’s values and principles and a set of principles by which one lives.

My story is one of the consequences of getting older. Because my parents were in their forties when I was born, I always felt like an outsider compared to my friends. I had the temperament of an older person because I was an only kid raised by grandparents. I never considered myself a “fun” person. At the ripe old age of 23, I decided to try my hand at entrepreneurship, and because of my serious demeanor, I quickly earned the respect of my peers and saw my firm flourish.

I owe this to my father, a businessman who, in my childhood perceptions, was always a grumpy “old man” unless he was on the phone with a “prospect.” Then, his heart was filled with joy, only to return to its normal melancholy state after the call ended. Looking back, I can appreciate his predicament; depression was a constant struggle for him long before it became a household phrase. The lesson I learned from this is that the client always comes first.

For instance, I have a client whose primary demographic consists of people aged 80 and up, making them reasonably unconventional. Eight years after he initially benefited from my wide range of marketing services, the tech-phobic director of an elderly care facility approached me to ask me to switch his website hosting so he could take advantage of limitless email. This is because he cannot delete any messages he has received but has yet to read; thus, his inbox is permanently filled, and he cannot accept any new messages. To ensure none of this critical information was lost, he authorized me to access his inbox, sort through all of the mail he’s gotten over the past eight years (much of it spam), and transfer it to a separate account. Without a complaint, I completed this laborious process (which he refused to undertake himself). I redesigned his original website from scratch, which included brand-new on-site photographs as a bonus. I worked tirelessly to cover every base, from the most up-to-date complete SEO to social media metrics and online secure job applications. Although he is not tech savvy, he is aware of whether or not his firm is thriving and who is behind the scenes promoting that. Despite my efforts, I did not receive a single thank-you message, phone call, or email. When I submitted him a reasonable charge for all these months of action, he paid me the next business day. That’s all the gratitude I required.

Recently, I’ve also had the fun experience of dealing with a group of retirees who founded their own nonprofit focusing on reaping individual benefits for themselves. The goal of this program, which is part of the Aging in Place movement, is to help each person maintain their independence while still living in their own homes. Free rides, social gatherings, medical advice, and even minor house repairs could all fall under this category. Understandably, the general population would be interested in joining a noble cause. Due to the founder’s proximity to and ability to serve the local community, membership is limited to that area. They work whenever is most convenient for them, and their marketing decisions are always predicated on cutting costs. Their group’s struggles come as no surprise. Perhaps they are too close to the situation to see the forest for the trees, as they lack commercial understanding and objectivity. This may be because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

I’ll never forget the day, many years ago, when I arrived at work shortly after 9 a.m. and was immediately scolded by the principal of one of our largest accounts, an “older” man (of around 40) who controlled the county’s only commuter aircraft. When he showed up unannounced, he expected us to be open and ready to serve him as we would have been during “normal” business hours. Before the advent of the Internet, things functioned differently. There was no such thing as email, and there were no cell phones or computers. We used wax and drafting tables, stat cameras and typesetting machines, rapidograph illustrations, and press-type headlines to combine the work we accomplished for him clumsily. After meticulously planning the routes of dogwalkers, daycare providers, and school buses, my wife and I still had to drive about an hour from the rural fringes of our suburban sprawl to get to work. When we were 26, we had our hands complete.

However, I eventually came around to his more traditional views on business, and I started cleaning up my act and appearance, and availability. Shortly after that, we lost that client to death. When he went, everyone shook their heads and said we were doomed. We stayed together across the decade thanks to our work’s strength and the guts of our ideas. This company has been successful for 36 years.

Here’s one more odd story: it’s about two lawyers. Over 25 years, two friendly rivals were our most successful clients in the region thanks to their dedication to our exceptional service and the success of their cases, which they skillfully publicized to an enraptured audience. However, one of them eventually left because of a billing dispute and began working with a rival company instead to handle their advertising needs. The other lawyer stayed with us for another decade after the Internet was invented, keeping in touch with the renegade. Our client remained at the forefront of his industry as he piled up million-dollar results because of our advertising, design, and web ranking expertise. However, the stress of the current economic climate led him to rebel against his friend and join forces with him, merging their two businesses with the defector at the helm. Our romance ended abruptly.

Instantaneously, his online footprint vanished, leaving search engines befuddled. Both attorneys are reluctant to use the internet but figure their ignorance is harmless. The new website for the merged firm says that my client’s biography will be available shortly, but it’s been over six months, and I still haven’t seen it. Has my client’s confidence been dampened by the ravages of time? How could he stand by and watch his “friend” waste his entire career on excuses and laziness? Can he be so dim? As he enters his golden years, the liberation from the restraints of looming debt while working ceaselessly on contingency for the advantage of others has far eclipsed the significance of recruiting future business. And I can’t say that I blame him.

But he deserves more, and it’s fate’s fault that I can’t shield him from dangers he doesn’t see coming. A person’s energy levels, excitement, influence, and vision may all decrease as they get older, and they may also become more susceptible to discrimination from those of a younger generation. But as I’ve become older, my determination to do my best in my writing and business endeavors has only grown. I achieve this by maintaining my energy through a commitment to health and fitness, being current on all technological developments, and imparting my insights to others. Does one’s age make a difference in the workplace? Sure thing!

For almost 36 years, Marilyn Bontempo, president of Mid-Hudson Marketing in Holmes, New York, has been at the forefront of creating winning business strategies. Professional writer and Bard College alumna with multiple accolades for her work in advertising, photography, and more. Her expertise in branding extends to helping businesses with their public relations and social media strategies. She also manages e-commerce for various online retailers, including those who sell via eBay, Amazon, and others, in addition to their websites. Visit to see some of her work.

Marilyn Bontempo can be reached via

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