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Being the Eldest Person on Your Work Team

By Shelagh Murray March 03, 2023 Managing Money

Many of us continue to work past the point when society expects us to retire. Maybe we don’t feel ready to retire yet, maybe we just need the money.

Whatever the reason, it inevitably means that we are working with – and for – people who are younger than we are. Sometimes considerably younger than we are.

They’re All So Young!

I can’t remember at what point I realized that pretty much everyone I was dealing with in my life was younger than me. The doctor, the dentist, the boss, even their boss, the bank manager – all those people who used to be old!

I started a new job six months ago, after years of working from home. The people I work with on a day-to-day basis are young enough to be my kids – or even my grandkids.

It’s interesting, energizing, fun. But it can also be difficult. Difficult to see younger people progressing ahead of you. Difficult to see them getting opportunities that you didn’t get when you were their age. Harder still to see them making the same mistakes that you made.

You Need a Long Memory

It’s easy to dismiss them as not having the experience, not understanding how the world works. But I think it’s important that we have a long memory – that we remember ourselves at 18, or 21, or 35, or 42, and the pressures we were under – and also what we were capable of.

Respect works both ways. They’re finding their way in the world, just as we had to. Just as we still are.

Time to Learn

Let’s not always assume that the old way of doing it (our way or doing it) was the best. The younger generations look at how we did things and they can see the problems. And things change, the old solutions don’t work anymore, or the new solutions are better. Time to move on.

There was a prime example at work the other day. I was on the phone to our tech team, and I needed the serial numbers from the printer. The printer is nowhere near the phone lines. I would have written them down, but my colleague simply took a photo on his phone.

It was quicker. And with the photo on his phone he could enlarge the image to make it clearer, he could send it to someone, and he could save it for later (and know where he’d put it). Lesson learned.

Young Boss

And spare a thought for the boss – in charge of someone old enough to be their mother. Or older than their mother. Don’t make life difficult for them just because they’re the boss and they’re young.

For whatever reason, you’re not the boss, and they are – so get over it, and get on with it, and get on with them.

At the end of the day, they probably learned from us, and we learned from them. And that’s what matters.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How do you feel when surrounded by people younger than you? Do you allow yourself to feel isolated because of ageism-affected mindset? What would it take you to change the way you think about and interact with younger people – at work or anywhere else? Please share with our sisters!

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Great article, thank you!
I’m in my early 60’s and working part-time.

My bosses are literally half my age!
I appreciate their youthful approach and they appreciate my years of experience – it’s a great blend. In a way, I am them mentor.

What I have noticed though, is that a number of my younger and brilliant colleagues lack patience and tenacity. They tend to choose ‘easy’ over ‘right’ and invariably create other issues in doing so. Those issues are often handed over to me to rectify 😀

All-in-all, we respect each other and learn something valuable from one another most days.

I’d say the perfect balance in the workplace comprises of a younger & older mind.


I am in that situation everyone in the team I work in are younger. There have never been any problems and we all treat each other with respect. They help keep me young.

The only real difference is the family situation, most of them have young kids. We are a team of 8 but only 2 of us work 100%. This also means that they call in sick because of there kids an it’s had to plan any team event.

Carol Boucher

After working a late shift with low hours for over 5 years, I applied for two different jobs at my place of business. The jobs went to young people who quit one month, respectively, into their tenures. They had degrees in the field, and were just looking for full time work. I would have stayed had they chosen me.

Another young person hired for one of the jobs quit, the next ones hired were more committed, slightly older, and have stayed. I made my peace with the ageism, if I don’t like it I can leave. I did change my situation-I resigned the job with lousy hours while keeping good relations with staff and supervisors and am now a regular sub, and I love it!

I also have an ongoing elder care situation that requires plane travel many times a year, so sub work is ideal. My employer is flexible and I’m grateful.

I work with one other person my age, everyone else is under 50. I’m 60. When the other person retires, it might get weird. I try to get to know everyone regardless of job or station, and I like most everybody.

At the same time, I’m now aware ageism exists…and I’ve heard about it from others. Meantime, I’m more physically fit than many of my co-workers and I try to keep on top of the technological changes at work so I can still be helpful.

But it is harder to remember new information since I’m older (also being a sub, it’s intermittent work), and with every software update comes a new change. It’s good for me, but I do look forward to retiring some day.

Nancy Trevino

I was the oldest in my department. I had also been in the department longer than anyone else. I knew our software better. I also was more tech savvy than most of my coworkers and was the go to person for most things. Everything was fine until we got a know it all manager. He made me (and other employees) feel unappreciated. It had nothing to do with him being younger than me. I retired in December 2022 instead of May 2023 because of him. Everyone that has seen me since my retirement says that I look so relaxed and happy.

Tracy Welch

I am retired at 62, but returned to my old position, part time, as a conflict interventionist for middle school kids. Naturally every one is younger than I am. Some I’ve known for years, some are brand new. Where I used to feel sought out for my wisdom and historical knowledge of the school, I am now often left out of decisions and discussions. It’s hard to tell if they are trying to let me remain semi-retired and unbothered and unburdened, or if my ideas simply don’t matter. Also, most of my old crew has young kids and they do a lot of kid things, that I have no interest in anymore.

Anyway, I watch the same ideas we had 20 years ago brought up as new ideas, co-workers wanting change in kids right away rather than slowly changing behavior, and much shorter fuses in the young teachers. It’s been fun, but I’m going back to being retired!

The Author

Shelagh was an ordinary middle-aged woman, living a comfortable life and expecting a comfortable retirement. But now she’s not. Her husband walked away when she was 58, so she did the only thing any sane person can do these days – she started a blog.

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