Dave Ogilvy is, as he says, not your average 63-year-old. The UberX driver works up to 85 hours per week and has just about finished saving for his retirement, which will be spent snowboarding around the world with the woman he plans to make his third wife.

Ogilvy started driving for ride-sharing company 10 months ago after his sales career hit a wall. He had been operating as a “middle man”, providing goods for large retailers and then found himself without a business when his customers decided to negotiate directly with manufacturers.

“I couldn’t find the right thing to do. I had three years of a pretty bad financial situation,” he says.

A friend introduced him to the idea of driving for Uber, he rented a car through Splend (which hires cars and does hire-purchase deals for Uber drivers) and now he loves the freedom, the variety and the income of his new venture.

Ogilvy says he never felt discriminated against in the job market because of his age: “If I tell people I am 49, they believe me.”

Others in his age group are not so fortunate. It takes an average of 116 weeks for over 55s to re-enter the workforce and there are more people over 50 on work-for-the-dole schemes (despite the fact it is not a requirement for them) than there are unemployed people under 22.

While employers are making efforts to become more inclusive in their hiring practises, outside of the large financial institutions, mature-age workers still lack the kind of champions that benefit women in the workforce – as in the Male Champions of Change group set up by the former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

While employers may publicise their efforts to retain the older workers they already have, rarely do we hear about over 55s being specifically targeted as new recruits.

Around 27% of people over the age of 50 report experiencing age discrimination at work, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Willing to Work inquiry report, released in May 2016.

In the corporate world, there is cachet in being seen to be encouraging women in leadership and fighting racial and cultural discrimination, but advocating for mature-age workers is yet to find its place in the sun, says the managing partner of PwC’s People Business, Jon Williams.

“In the social debate, this is not a sexy thing to be seen to be doing,” he says. “They ought to be proud about it. It is not about hiring them as a last resort, it is about hiring them because they have qualities that other age groups don’t necessarily have – whether it’s experience or empathy or their willingness to let others succeed or their ability to look after themselves.”

Bias against older workers has a wide-ranging economic impact. PwC’s Golden Age Index reports that harnessing the power of that workforce could deliver Australia economic gains of up to $78bn.

The chief executive of Splend, Chris King, says Dave Ogilvy is a good example of the benefits of age and experience. “He has one of the highest Uber ratings across Australia, and his earnings are sensational,” says King.

And King has the metrics to prove it. Splend use telematics to rank its 900 drivers on their safely based on speed, acceleration, breaking and cornering.

“We find a lot of drivers are in their 60s, retired businessmen, and they don’t do it for the money. A lot of the time it is social interaction and just getting out of the house,” he says.

King says drivers in the over-50 age range get higher ratings from customers, are more patient and friendly, less stressed and safer on the roads. “The feedback we get from surveys and our staff, they are awesome,” he adds.

Williams says it also makes sense from a business point of view to have workplaces mirror the demographic of the populations they serve, especially since baby boomers (aged 52 to 70) have plenty of money to spend.

This is exactly what the Commonwealth Bank is doing in a six-month trial to hire more mature-age workers into the two call centres that deal with superannuation, investment and retirement products for Colonial First State.

The percentage of workers over 55 across the bank is 7.2%, compared with 16% of Australia’s total labour force.

When the trial period ends, the bank will assess its success in terms of customer satisfaction and employee retention. If the results are promising, the bank will then consider proactively hiring over 55s across other business areas.

Westpac was one of the first Australian organisations to focus on recruiting mature-age people, setting a target to increase the number of employees aged 50 and over to more than 20.5% by 2017. By early 2015 Westpac had reached 20.9%. The bank was also the first corporate to introduce grandparental leave.

Family-owned Bus Queensland is another company that goes out of its way to employ mature-age workers. Because a large proportion of its work is school bus runs, the company found it hard in the past to retain younger drivers who needed an income over school holiday periods.

The human resources manager for the company, John Muir, says the split shifts and plentiful holidays can suit older workers, and the company has managed to attract drivers with a wide range of experience.

The company employs 400 drivers and at least 60% are older than 50 and some are over 70. Muir says drivers have included engineers, accountants and even a retired judge who took on a minibus run for children with special needs.

“They make a decision they want to do something different in life and think: ‘I’ll go and drive a bus for a while’,” he says.

Bus Queensland is taking part in the Department of Employment’s Corporate Champions initiative, which is for employers who make a public commitment to hire mature-age workers. Here’s hoping more companies get on board.

Article from Guardian