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If 65+ Employee Falters, Focus on Job Performance, Not Age


We have an employee who is over the age of 65 and has worked for us for several years, but recently his cognitive skills appear to be diminishing. Can we ask him to take a test for his mental health?

With an aging population and workers who continue to work well past retirement age, the issue of mental competence is becoming a daunting issue for employers to deal with. Signs include missing meetings, forgetting how to do certain tasks and generalized forgetfulness.

It is inappropriate to ask certain questions — such as “Are you slowing down?” or “Is old age catching up with you?” or “At your age, it is probably difficult to remember things.”

But instead of having the employee tested for mental competence, there are better ways to handle this situation.

Job Performance

First, if there is a suspicion of mental issues, the employer can focus on the job performance issues — approaching the individual about the problems that have come up, such as missed meetings, forgetting how to perform tasks they have done for years and a decline in performance/lowered production.

Indeed, if there is that suspicion that there are mental issues, the contact should not be in the form of a severe reprimand but a gentle approach addressing the problems. Specifics are necessary, not a vague reference to unacceptable performance.  Read More

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