"The evidence is overwhelming that they're better," Cappelli said. "But the hiring managers are just going with their guts, and our guts are full of prejudice."
Paul Lugo, 69, of Kendall Lakes, Fla., has felt that prejudice. After decades of work in business development and customer service at various companies, Lugo found himself unemployed about two years ago. He needs the money, but no one wants to hire him.
"I've been to every mall, I've gone to the TSA, I've gone through thousands of applications," he said, "but I get the same thing: 'Don't call us, we'll call you.'"
Lugo relies on occasional jobs as an extra in movies and television shows to supplement his Social Security check. He has even offered on job interviews to work for free for a week to prove he's worth hiring, but no one has taken him up on it.
"With my experience, I've learned so much," he said. "As a senior citizen, I have a lot to contribute to a company if they allow me, but they never give me a chance."
But older workers are just what Michelle Benjamin, CEO of TalentREADY, a New York-based consulting firm, is looking for. She holds open houses specifically aimed at recruiting them. About three-quarters of the company's senior employees are over 50. They often cost more to hire, Benjamin said, but they don't require much training or supervision, and end up paying for themselves with the quality of work.
"Clients are paying us to get to the bottom line really quickly," she said.
Mintz admits his own age, 82, fuels his support of older workers. But he echoes Capelli, saying he sees daily proof among the older individuals he has hired at Cranford, N.J.-based Tofutti: Fewer absences, fewer mistakes, a greater ability to solve problems and a willingness to put in more hours.
Though workers in highly physical warehouse jobs at his company skew younger, and older employees are not as adept in technology driven roles, Mintz says overall their experience pays off.
"They're loaded with knowledge," he said. "They can teach the young whippersnappers."
Matt Sedensky, an AP reporter on leave, is studying aging and workforce issues as part of a one-year fellowship at the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which joins NORC's independent research and AP journalism. The fellowship is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and supported by APME, an association of AP member newspapers and broadcast stations.
Follow Matt Sedensky on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sedensky.
EDITOR'S NOTE _ Aging America is a joint AP-APME project examining the aging of the baby boomers and the impact that this so-called silver tsunami is having on society
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