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AARP The Magazine

The Surprising Truth About Older Workers

Here’s one: Their strengths can make them the most valuable people in the office

The Power of Patience

Mark Simoneau can identify with the BMW study's findings. "The patience you develop as you get older helps you deal with stressful situations," he says. "A crisis comes up and rather than getting emotional you're more likely to think, 'This too shall pass.' When you can be dispassionate about a problem, it's easier to see what's urgent and where to put your resources."

See also: What workers 50+ want

Simoneau's networking paid off in 2012, when a consultant told him about a social services agency that was looking for a human resources director. He gave the consultant his résumé and cover letter — and got an interview.

So, on a cloudy, late-fall day, Simoneau put on his best charcoal-blue suit, borrowed his stepdaughter's Hyundai and drove more than an hour from his home near Worcester, Massachusetts, to the Wakefield office of Emarc, a nonprofit that serves adults with developmental disabilities.

Simoneau was at peace about his age. "I can't make myself younger, and I wasn't going to try," he says. For 90 minutes — longer than he'd expected — he met with the company's executive director and the chief financial officer.

He thought he'd nailed the interview but knew that they were also talking to others and wondered about his chances. A day later, he got a callback. This time, he talked for over an hour with the executive director. A few days later he was formally offered the position.

The salary? Well, it wasn't what he'd been earning before. But that was no surprise.

"You have to understand the constraints of the organization, and I did," Simoneau says. He took the job. That night he celebrated modestly — by taking his wife out to dinner at Ruby Tuesday.

Simoneau has been back at work for nearly a year. At 65 he could be retired and collecting benefits. But what he's realized, he says, is that "I'm a worker." He enjoys solving problems, helping coworkers and passing on his knowledge to others. That, as it turns out, is a good thing, and not just for his new employer.

Letting people work longer, economists agree, boosts overall employment and gives the whole economy a little more gas: Last year a tow truck took away Simoneau's old Mercury. He had bought himself an almost new Ford Focus.

Nathaniel Reade is a freelance writer.

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