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Elder Employee

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At every job, there is an employee who is considerably older than those they work with. Depending on the work, they may either qualify as a Cool Old Guy or Cool Old Lady, an elder with a less approachable personality (usually due to being a Jaded Professional) or a balance between the two. The employee could be seen as being just as efficient as their younger coworkers if not more, or might be portrayed as your typical Scatterbrained Senior.

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Also depending on the environment, it could be Played for Laughs to try and prove a point to their younger whippersnapper relatives or friends who think they're incapable of doing the job, and usually are, or Played for Drama due to the senior losing their pension or if they do still have a pension, but due to the 2008 Great Recession, it's not enough to live on and they have no choice but to go back to work.

See also Old Retainer, Old Cop, Young Cop and Old Soldier (the strictly military version). An inversion of this trope is Reluctant Retiree. Compare and contrast Mandatory Unretirement, when someone goes back to the exact job they quit (while this trope has more to do with an older person or elder taking any job available). May be prone to Experience Entitlement if he doesn't want to change the way things have been done for years.

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Keep in mind that their age must be lampshaded or otherwise relevant to the plot to be considered an example. If a person just so happens to be the oldest employee with a company but it's seldom commented on, then it's not an example of this trope.

Examples:

Advertising

  • A 1980s era McDonald's commercial titled "The New Kid" featured an elderly man nervous about his first day as a cashier, only for him to be sharp as a tack and popular with both his coworkers and the customers.
  • A Super Bowl 2018 commercial for E-Trade had a group of elderly people going to work in generally unsuitable jobs (such as a lifeguard, a firefighter and a DJ) due to not having enough money to retire.

Film

  • In Good Burger, Abe Vigoda works at the titular restaurant despite being at least 40 or 50 years older than any other employee there.
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  • In American Beauty, Lester quits his advertising job and takes up working at the local burger joint (explaining he wants "the least possible amount of responsibility"). He's easily 20+ years older than the other employees, including the managers, and has to defend his prior fast food service experience because it was decades earlier.

Literature

  • Going Postal:
    • Junior Postman Groat is, in fact, the oldest employee still serving at the Ankh-Morpork Post Office, but the Post Office has been without a Postmaster for so long that there was nobody to promote him.
    • Also are the other, even older postmen who induct Moist as Postmaster General, and later still Anghammarad, a golem several thousand years old whose last job was delivering a message to an island that sank into the sea (and is waiting for it to come back up, carving the message into a new clay tablet when the old one crumbles) and who gets given the rank of Extremely Senior Postman.
  • Germinal: veteran miner Vincent Maheu, who, at 58, has worked since nearly half a century in the Montsou mine.

Live-Action Television

  • A The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode has Will trying to get on the air at a news station and asking an elderly man for help. He then replies, "I'm an 80-year-old pushing a mail cart. Do I look like I could help you?"
  • Mama's Family episode "Have It Mama's Way" has Thelma and Bubba both getting jobs at a fast food restaurant. While the latter is good at his job due to be quick and courteous with customers, the former is, well, Mama.
  • Cold Case episode "The Dealer" goes into the sexist world of car dealers to try and solve the 1981 murder of a young mother. In addition to interviewing the former coworkers, detectives soon learn that it's also a pretty racist and ageist environment and one of few people who still worked at the dealership in question, an middle-aged man, killed the woman out of jealousy and the heat of the moment.
  • In Are You Being Served?, Mr. Grainger was a 40-year veteran employee and was much older than most of his co-workers. Many of his jokes are about how he should have retired years ago, and his tendency to fall asleep on the job. After the actor playing him died, the writers tried to replace the character with another similar character, but none of the replacements lasted more than one season.
  • Creed from The Office is much older than the rest of his co-workers, and occasionally shows signs of going senile. Though, somewhat of a subversion since he never actually applied for a job and just walked into the building one day, pretended to be working, and continued to do so for years.
  • Superstore: The octogenarian Myrtle is the superstore's longest-serving employee. Her old age is mainly used for humor, as she is a Scatterbrained Senior Racist Grandma who still has to restock shelves and push carts like everyone else. Despite this, the store managers are reluctant to fire her in Season 3 because she's been working for the store for so long.
  • The Golden Girls:
    • An early episode has Rose, who had just lost her late husband's pension after his company went out of business, searching for employment. Even after much rejection, she ends up as a waitress at a diner (although this is retconned out of existence and she is instead a grief counselor and eventually gets a job as a consumers' reporter).
    • A Played for Laughs version has Sophia taking a few jobs in the food service, first as a server at a pirate-themed seafood restaurant and then as a country-themed grocery store where she and two elderly girlfriends contront their Mean Boss for being insensitive to their schedules, who happens to be the one friend's teenaged grandson (played by a young Scott Menville!)
  • It's a Living follows the five waitresses at a posh California restaurant, and their senior supervisor, Nancy Beebe. When the girls whine that Nancy's cracking the whip too hard, a contest is held to see who can generate the most tips that evening. Nancy wins handily, even bringing water to an exhausted Dot. The girls are better at dishing gossip and drama than serving entrees.

Video Games

  • In No Delivery, one of the NPCs you can meet is an old lady in a wheelchair who spends her time in the employee lounge. She's referred to as "Senior Staff". can remember specific events much better than other characters, and ends up as one of the player's summons, where her attacks revolve around using a shot gun.

Western Animation

  • In The Simpsons episode, "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy", the subplot has Grampa Simpson going to work at Krusty Burger to try and reclaim his dignity and to feel young. Given it's the Simpsons patriarch, he does terribly to the point of being unsure if they sold french fries.

Real Life

  • France awards medals (the medaille d'honneur du travail) to workers who stayed more than a certain time in a place, with the rank depending from the length (typically from 20 to 40 years).
  • Australian botanist David Goodall was still working at 104 in 2018, when he opted to go to Switzerland for assisted suicide.
  • 102-year-old Indiana surveyor Bob Vollmer just retired in 2020.
  • In real life, as people age, if they lose their job or have to re-enter the workforce they experience a great deal of difficulty finding a job despite all their experience, because of their age. The government can prohibit age discrimination all they want, nevertheless, it will occur. This is why you see older people working as cashiers or stocking shelves. In talking to some of then, you'll quickly find out many of them have multiple advanced degrees, considerable military experience, etc.
  • The oldest DJ in Poland is one DJ Wika, who is 82, a former teacher and social worker, and can rock a party like someone quarter her age.

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