Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ageism in the Workplace

I'm a fan of Ronni Bennett's blog As Time Goes By.

Ronni's focus on political and social issues is very useful to any progressive older adult who wants to stay informed. Yesterday Ronni blogged about ageism in the workplace. This is not the first time she has discussed the subject. She is one of those older adults who was pushed out of a beloved job field because of age, so it is a subject she returns to. Check out her September 2nd blog on workplace discrimination.

I especially liked pro-active interview suggestions from Rick Gillis' book The Real Secret to Finding a Job, which Ronni included in her post yesterday. They are:

"Look your interviewer straight in the eye, don't blink and in your most pleasant, professional voice, ask:

  • Does this company maintain a mixed-age workplace?

  • How do you weigh the skills of younger and older workers in deciding whom to hire?

  • How do you train young managers in dealing with subordinates who are old enough to be their parents and grandparents?

  • Is my age an impediment to being hired at this company?"
Gillis maintains that asking some of these questions in an even, professional manner positions the job seeker as someone who is savvy and valuable. His website is

I have never encountered this type of ageism myself because as I've aged I worked in a family medical clinic, had my own healing practice and have worked part-time for the past 9 years for Medifecta Healthcare Training,, an elder-friendly company where I help to write and produce educational materials that train caregivers of elders. But I know that ageism affects many older adults in limiting and demeaning ways.

Studies show that older workers have a lot to offer in terms of accumulated experience, capability and reliability. Not only that, but as the population ages, we will have workforce shortages, and need at least some older workers to continue to work. Many older adults have a financial need to continue earning, or want to contribute and participate through the workplace.
So older workers are qualified and reliable, and we need them in the workforce.

Yet ageism in the workplace is endemic, in spite of federal anti discrimination laws. Patronizing, condescending attitudes about older workers continue, and many older workers never get interviewed much less hired even though they are well qualified. Ageism in America, a report from the International Longevity Institute, describes ageism in the workplace (as well as media, health care and society in general). I highly recommend getting educated about ageism and challenging ageism when it shows up in your life, whether it's in the workforce, medical office, or retail store.

My new play has a little anti-ageism kit contained within it. Can't share those tactics yet, but when the play is done, they will be available for review, adaptation and real use. But don't wait till then to create some imaginative, nonviolent and skillful responses to ageism. Show up, and together let's make social change happen!
Photo of nice dried up old apple courtesy

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