I am not young…but I am not old. I am at the ripe ole age where I am straddling mid-life, casting a wary glance over my shoulder hoping that a personal crisis will never pounce on me unannounced. I’ve written about mid-life crises before and also, ashamedly so, have joked about it.
But I can say I understand what mid-life is like right now.
According to a simple Google search, ageism can be described very simply as follows:
“…prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age. Ageism in recruitment is an increasing problem”
Take, for example, the last part of the description, it never really shook me, despite knowing its effects during my early years as a youngster as I saw older bosses shake in fear every time they did something wrong in the office, until recently.
No matter where you are geographically, ageism is an infuriating problem.
And here’s what you might hear if you’re an older person.
You’re too old to be hired as cheap labor. You’re too experienced to be a part of our young, dynamic team. You’re too unbending because you’ve got so much experience behind you. And of course, you’re too expensive. You can’t move fast enough. You’re not bright enough. Your ideas are outdated. You won’t be able to mix well with the rest of the group. You’ll lag behind. You’ll get sick. You’ll underperform. You won’t be able to take the stress. You don’t know what’s going on and won’t catch up. You’re not what we’re looking for. You’re such a burden.
What is ageism?
On the surface, everyone portrays their openness towards hiring anyone of any age, background, religious beliefs, skin color, qualifications, and experience. But the reality is harsher than we think. Ageism is a perception hidden under the surface of everyone’s preferences and decisions. The inner prejudicial behavior or a person or group towards older people based on stereotypes exists in every layer of society. It’s the chatter in the cloakroom.
What’s even more troubling is that the negative perception and attention towards the older members of our society may lead them themselves to believe that they are not worth whatever they were worth before even when they’re ready to put their boot to the ground.
Unfair obstacles in the face of age
It is a well-known fact that those older than 40 looking for employment will often face ageist prejudicial attitudes. The continued development of such beliefs and attitudes will lead to marginalized groups of older people and make it difficult for them to live peaceful half-ends of their lives. In fact, they will likely believe that they are no longer worth their spot in the civilized society.
This makes the rest of us outside of the ‘older generation’ bracket lose our human and ethical values. Some people also believe that after a person hits a certain age, growth is no longer possible. Change comes in at a close second.
An article bu G.J. Chipperfield and Betty Haven wrote about how there is an important relationship between perceived respect and self-respect…..influenced by the ageist attitudes and behavior of others, for many people it can be a source of lowered self-respect and loss of personal meaning. This, in turn, results in decreased quality of life and well-being.Cambridge.org
Stopping the ageism propaganda
Ageism is an everyday problem that is not given enough spotlight simply because older people tend to relegate themselves to secondary roles or accept their designation in life, fair or unjust. If widespread, however, it may become more extensive and have an insidious effect on society as a whole, not just the quality of life and health of the older generation.
It is the job of the younger generation to realize that this is a very negative practice and belief system. Everyone, regardless of their age, should be given a fair fighting chance and should be viewed individually. As it is, the older generation faces immense challenges finding permanent employment, are restricted from social services, face higher insurance premiums, refused grants and loans, regarded in a negative light in the media and marginalized by their communities.
Compassion and kindness has no place in a world of hustle
Let’s ask ourselves a very simple question: would we, or would we not, hire someone much older than us to do work for us?
Cast aside everything else and let’s just look at the age of the person and based on our knowledge and experience – will we?
In the real world, there is very little compassion, understanding, and kindness. I know it’s sort of a jaded view but this is perhaps one of the most honest statements one can make about this world.
If you are anything above the age of 40, chances of anyone hiring you afresh is close to zero. Forget about whipping out your stellar record of establishing, running and managing businesses or impressing the HR people with your resume with a long list of successes. The hiring team was probably, first and foremost, looking for someone young, energetic, enthusiastic, lively, personable, and eager to learn. They will also be looking for someone who has a high tolerance for stress, is willing to work long hours for a low wage, and a quick learner.
None of that fits an ‘old’ person.
The preconceived notion keeping older people out of work
Don’t believe me? Browse around some of the biggest job sites in the world and you’ll soon see a pattern. A large percentage of people are out there looking for young blood.
Suffice to say, if the job requires someone with experience, they’re probably looking for someone senior. Here’s the problem: senior people who have been around the block should have at least a connection or two with top-ranking people. Why would they be prowling around on job sites sending out resumes?
The only conclusion someone can then reach is that the older person must not have been much in his/her previous work and has been fired. This is the very preconceived notion that has been keeping the talented, willing-to-work ‘elderly’ people out of work.
There are well over 2 billion older people at the age of 60 all around the world and many more will reach the demographic by 2050. If we let this behavior fester every day, this prejudice will become normalized.
It’s up to us to voice out
If sexism and racism should not be normalized, neither should ageism.
How many of us will be like George Clooney who is regarded as a fine bottle of wine – the older the better? Not many. The rest of us will be relegated to being rotten, unusable, a burden to society, and a non-contributing member of our family.
Is that what you want for yourself? If not, then fight against it now while you still can. At the very least, start telling the world that aging is normal and not a crutch.
p.s. If you have comments, feedback, or see some grammatical errors, please feel free to let me know! I will send you some virtual love fluff.
p.p.s. Credit for featured image: Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash