Purpose – The authors contribute to the literature by contrasting the cognitive with a contextual view on learning and development to address preconceptions about aging in order to broaden employers’ views on learning and performance across the working life and careers of their employees. The authors furthermore identify a number of opportunities that exist to support and sustain learning capability and performance in older workers. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach – The authors conducted a selective literature search to identify literature that best exemplifies both the cognitive and contextual view. Findings – Age-related declines in performance are observed on very specific and limited tasks, unlikely to be encountered in the workplace. Due to its focus on assessing limits and age differences, such studies will not normally take experience, job and personal resources into account – these are more likely to be present in the workplace. The authors find that much of the more applied evidence suggests older workers can perform at a similar level to their younger colleagues – when the workplace or training context does not restrain them from using their own strategies and resources to complete tasks. Research limitations/implications – The current overview of research that is more representative of the more cognitive view outlines a number of issues regarding the transferability as well as generalisability of these well publicised findings. Many of the laboratory-based cognitive ageing research focuses on “testing the limits” of cognitive processing and efficiency. This paradigm is not compatible with the specific tasks and learning that takes place in the workplace, which led us to a more contextual view. Practical implications – The authors provide several starting points for broader and more inclusive training and development, particularly the role of supervisory practices, climate, self-efficacy and learning competency, resources and strategies. Originality/value – Taking a more contextual view may foster a re-evaluation of how inclusive current managerial practice, policies and current development initiatives are. Distinguishing job and personal resources can help in identifying the aspects that can be influenced by workers themselves and those aspects that are the primary responsibility of organisations and their managers.