I’m in My 20s and Trying to Get Along with a Coworker in Their 80s

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female construction company worker in my 20s. Our company does not have a mandatory retirement age, and I have a coworker in their 80s who is more knowledgeable about our field than me. Despite their age, this coworker is not assigned easier tasks and is given the same tasks as me.

However, I’m tired of being asked every day how to use a computer or smartphone, as well as the meaning of certain words that they do not understand or are not familiar with. I get frustrated and respond in a strong tone because they don’t learn, regardless of how many times I explain it to them.

Even when I tell them to look it up on the internet themselves, this coworker still asks me.

During breaks, they repeat the same stories about their illness and declining physical health, which I find exhausting to listen to.

To be honest, I really want to work happily and have a good relationship with this person. In an era when many people live for 100 years, I recognize the importance of embracing diversity and understanding it. But how can I work effectively with older colleagues?”

L, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. L:

Aging and labor shortages are common problems in the construction industry, and as a result, there is an employee in their 80s at your company.

It is somewhat understandable that older individuals may struggle to keep up with new words and use the latest devices and equipment. However, it is unreasonable for such situations to cause inconvenience for younger employees.

As long as your company does not introduce a mandatory retirement age, management must recognize this as an urgent issue that requires a solution, rather than leaving it up to each individual employee. It would be a significant loss to the company if the younger employees were to quit, exhausted by working for a company that puts a lot of emphasis on diversity.

Do you have any coworkers who are a similar age? If so, consider reporting the challenges you face to your supervisor together. If not, talk to your supervisor or the appropriate department for a solution.

Your company may need to provide training programs specifically for older employees. If in-house training is not feasible, it may be necessary for older employees to receive training from outside the company.

For everyday interactions, having some patience is required. Try to think of ways you can take breaks away from this older coworker, such as getting tea or coffee outside the office.

What your elderly coworker says may sound far-fetched to you now, but one day, you might realize that the things they were talking about are now happening to you.

Hazuki Saisho, writer