Senior Column: Living in an age of ageism

The most recent issue of the AARP Bulletin has a cover story devoted to what it refers to as the “last acceptable bias.”

This is “Ageism in the Workplace” and it profiles various individuals and their struggles to land jobs. Jobs they do not usually get because they’re too old. This practice goes on fairly openly, according to the article, even though age discrimination has been against the law for the last 50 years.

This special report was written by Joe Kita who notes that an AARP survey found that “about three in five older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.” And “76 percent of these workers see age discrimination as a hurdle to finding a new job.”

One of the signs that an ad is looking for a young person is when it says it’s looking for a “recent college graduate,” or a “digital native.”

Individuals who feel that they have been discriminated against have filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The author says that ageism exists in the workplace in three main areas. These are in recruitment and hiring; on-the-job bias when older workers get fewer training opportunities or promotions or are harassed; and when senior members are terminated when a workforce is freshened.

Granted, there are some tasks that are only suitable for younger folk. And these usually have to do with physical abilities. But there are some nonagenarians who are successful lifeguards. So physical prowess that exists in the elderly should be measured equally with the abilities of those much younger.

And there are some employers who actually like to hire older persons because they do not need health insurance and in some cases do not have to make all that much money.

This article reminded me of a film I had just watched called, “The Intern.” It was made a few years ago and starred Robert DeNiro. He’s a 71-year-old retired executive looking to keep busy. He sees a flyer posted in his Brooklyn neighborhood seeking senior citizen interns. He answers the ad and makes the cut.

The company is a very successful internet clothing firm run by its founder–a success driven young woman. DeNiro is assigned to be her helper. The movie was fun to watch and most memorable to me was watching this old guy interact with all the young people.

Comments like, “You mean you shave every day,” and “Why do you wear a jacket and tie all the time?” pointed out the differences in workplace attitudes.

There’s a great deal more to the film and I think it’s worth a look. You won’t be disappointed.

Meanwhile, at the meeting of the Senior Citizens Foundation meeting last Wednesday, it was reported that the bus that the foundation is buying and donating to the town for senior transportation might be called the “Silver Streak” with the name printed on the side of the vehicle. The new bus will be arriving in March.