As we age we need to adjust, and nowhere is the need more apparent than at the office. It’s about survival. Survival is about being smart, adapting, maintaining productivity and not being cut from the team.

If you have to work, survival is imperative; if you want to work, adapting will make your last years of work more satisfying.

An old proverb says: “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and enthusiasm every time.”

There is no better time than now and no better place than the workplace for using old age and treachery to your advantage.

First, let’s handle the physical issues. We need to develop tools to keep sharp. I suspect the bow and arrow was invented by an older man who found he couldn’t chuck his spear as far as he did when he was younger, and thus needed to compensate to avoid starving.

Likewise, in the jungle that is the office, we need to adapt.

  • Lighting: It’s simple — as we age we need more light. Get a lamp — a really good one with incandescent light or get a workspace that has a lot of natural light. You can’t work if you can’t see, reading in the dark is unproductive and squinting all day uses up energy.
  • Desk chairs: If the company doesn’t have decent office furniture, specifically a really good chair, buy one yourself. Here’s a good example.
  • Noise and distractions are more challenging as we get older. Open-plan offices are especially noisy and distracting. I don’t multi-task as well as my younger peers. I need quiet to get my work done. Seek out a quiet space — the company library, an unused meeting room, a far-flung desk. Stake a claim, make it yours and declare it private. Go there when your regular space is too noisy. Don’t explain, just do it.
  • Hearing, like eyesight, declines over time. If you can’t hear what is going on, you are headed for the exit. If you can’t hear precisely what is going on, you will look confused because you are confused. You will not inspire confidence and you will be headed for the exit. Adapt — get a hearing aid. (Read about that here).
  • Privacy: I tire during the day. I like a little peace and quiet. I might even like to close my eyes for a few minutes in the afternoon. To be productive, I need to be treacherous I need to find a spot where I can slump, let my belly hang out, scratch where I shouldn’t and nod off for a few Zs. Find an old storage room in the basement or the public library down the street — it’s about being productive and not showing weakness to your younger more energetic peers.
  • Office tools: I’m not talking about the stapler and the copying machine. I’m talking about the computer, the laptop, the iPad, the BlackBerry, the smartphone, Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter and all the other ones that I don’t know about. We don’t meet face to face anymore. That’s okay; we hated meetings anyway. They were long, boring and unproductive. It’s about effectively adapting to and using the new information processes that have replaced meetings. If you don’t, you are headed for the exit.

A simple solution: Swallow your pride; find a peer, a computer geek, and ask him/her to be your mentor. You must understand how information is circulated within your business ecosystem. Your wisdom and your judgement will be useless unless you have the business tools to maximize their power. Don’t stay with spears when the bow and arrow is available. These tools have not replaced knowledge and wisdom — they expand our power. But like the bow and arrow, we have to learn to use them.

The final years of our work life can be the most productive of our lives and the most lucrative. They can be the most frustrating or the most satisfying.

We have the tools to make these days a success. Old age and treachery will beat youth and enthusiasm every time — even if it comes at us armed with a smartphone.