Considering the Value of Older, Experienced Healthcare Executives

May 1992
May 1995 (revised)
December 1998 (revised)
March 2002 (revised)
November 2005 (revised)
November 2010 (revised)

Statement of the Issue

In recent decades, the world has witnessed unprecedented extensions in the longevity and well-being of citizens of developed nations. This prolongation of life is a remarkable achievement, but coping with the changes created by large numbers of long-lived people is forcing society and its institutions to make many adjustments.

Healthcare employers and employees must acknowledge the employment challenges presented by the new demographics. For employers, one challenge is overcoming unsubstantiated negative stereotypes of older, experienced employees concerning their attitudes, performance, physiological capacity, and ability to learn new techniques and skills. An opportunity for employers is to tap the extensive skills and experience of the older, experienced executive.

In 1967, the federal government enacted the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Its purpose is protecting and promoting the employment opportunities of older workers and helping to find solutions to age-related employment problems. Healthcare organizations will engender more positive regard and support from their key stakeholders by striving to embrace the spirit and the letter of the law.

Policy Position

The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) encourages healthcare executives and their organizations to employ individuals without regard to their age. While overt discrimination against employment of older, experienced healthcare executives is illegal and subject to sanction under federal law, even covert discrimination against the employment of older, experienced healthcare executives is incompatible with ACHE’s Code of Ethics.

Executive employment decisions will become increasingly complex as organizations respond to demands for staff diversity and for changing leadership and management skills. To avoid actual and perceived discrimination against older, experienced healthcare executives, ACHE advocates the following to help create equitable employment opportunities.

ACHE encourages all healthcare executives and the organizations they represent to play a significant role in addressing this issue by actively pursuing the following:

  • Employers should direct executive recruiters to identify and present candidates for senior-level positions irrespective of their age, and executive recruiters should suggest that their clients consider candidates for positions irrespective of their age.
  • CEOs, trustees and recruitment and retention decision makers should avoid negative stereotypes of older workers and actively recruit experienced executives for consideration, including those who are between positions.
  • CEOs and trustees of healthcare organizations should establish human resources plans that provide for leadership succession and effective continuing education for older, experienced executives.

ACHE encourages older, experienced executives to actively pursue the following:

  • Be flexible when seeking new positions by considering organizational settings, geographic areas, levels of responsibility and compensation structures different from those to which they may have been accustomed.
  • Be a role model and mentor to younger executives. At the same time, accept reverse mentoring to stay attuned to the emerging leaders and foster cross-generational understanding.
  • Assume responsibility for continuously maintaining and improving their leadership, management and technology skills, including use of new media such as social media, so they can contribute value to employing organizations in environments that continually change.
  • Interact with colleagues and remain actively involved in professional associations at both the national and local (chapter) level.

Healthcare will continue to be regarded as a dynamic sector of the economy—one that not only offers the prospect of employment but also the opportunity to make important social contributions. Leaders in this field have an ethical responsibility to select and retain executives without regard to their age.

Approved by the Board of Governors of the American College of Healthcare Executives on November, 2010.