Companies urged to add older workers to their ranks in order to benefit from the 'rich skills and experience' that they bring

Employers must do more to preserve the "mental capital" of older workers, according to a leading Government adviser.

Professor Tom Kirkwood, an expert on ageing, has warned that essential skills will be lost if companies continue to centre their recruitment policies on young people, particularly those that are fresh out of university.

Recent findings from a YouGov survey suggest that a small number of employers are bothering to maintain an older workforce.

Of the 500 business leaders in the UK that were questioned, 40% revealed that individuals aged over 50 accounted for a quarter of their workforce.

Some 66% admitted that this age group made an important contribution to their business, while 81% expressed concern that skills would be lost when older workers retired.

Yet, despite this, just 19% of employers considered maintaining an older workforce to be a business priority.

A mere 12% invested in any sort of targeted training for older staff, plus only 4% had designed workplaces to make them more suitable for older workers.

Prof Kirkwood, who is director of the Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age at the University of Newcastle, claims it is about time that companies wake up and realise the potential of recruiting people over the age of 50.

"There is real value in retaining the rich skills and experience of older workers but few businesses have yet caught on to the real potential of this population," he said.

"Creating jobs for young people is of course also essential but the reality is that we face a stark skills gap, as the baby boomers approach retirement at a rate faster than they can be replaced."

As many as 50% of employers involved in the poll revealed they often received job applications from over-50s, yet just 33% actively recruit older workers.

Some 60% admitted they had no strategies in place to encourage the employment of people from the older generation.

"Older workers have huge mental capital which all too often gets wasted," added Prof Kirkwood.

"Those businesses that get this right will be the ones most likely to create the growth that will benefit everyone, whether old already or just seeking to enter the workforce."

Copyright Press Association 2013