Ageism in America

Ageism is a term used to describe age discrimination in the workplace, and unfortunately it is a country wide problem. Many people over the age of fifty, and some even as young as forty have experienced some form of age discrimination either on the job or when seeking employment. AARP reports that 61% of Americans over the age of forty-five have seen or experienced some form of age discrimination in the workplace. This is a sad state of affairs not only for the victims of age discrimination but also for the companies that discriminate. There is a wealth of knowledge, experience, and wisdom that older workers bring to the workforce and many are forced out of their jobs earlier than they anticipate. Once they are forced out of their jobs many find it extremely difficult to find another due to age discrimination in the hiring process.

“The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that protects workers and job applicants age 40 and over from age-based discrimination in all aspects of employment. The ADEA does not apply to elected officials, independent contractors or military personnel.” AARP.

Despite this Act that was passed in 1967, which makes it illegal to use age to fire an employee or hire an older employee, discrimination continues and is very difficult to prove.  There are a few people who have sued for age discrimination and won but there are far more who have had the experience and have had no recourse.  When employees are forced out of their employment it can be devastating to their income and retirement plans. People are forced to sign up early for Social Security benefits if they are aged 62 and older. This limits the amount they can collect later on. Some withdraw money from their retirement funds early which has a negative impact on their retirement years.  It can also be mentally and emotionally draining. Many people become depressed and despondent when unable to find new employment. It can be a devastating blow to your self-esteem when you have been searching for new employment for years and are met with rejection after rejection. Some people who do find new employment are forced to work at a fraction of what they were paid previously. Many have to work more than one low paying position to make ends meet. This is a serious waste of talent and knowledge that older workers can offer their employers.

The whole hiring process has changed as technology has evolved and many older job seekers are not prepared for the new way of seeking employment where everything is done online. There are a few organizations that can assist in this area such as state unemployment offices, and AARP. “AARP Foundation’s Back to Work 50+ program helps older workers find better jobs by assisting with job training, career counseling and networking. You can learn more about smart jobseeking strategies as well as gain the support of national and local jobassistance partners.” The AARP website lists several organizations and agencies that assist older workers.

The common stereotypes that older employees are less productive, less creative, absent more, and resistant to new technology are myths. In fact, according to numerous studies and recent reports older workers possess many skills that younger workers do not have. These include organization, communication, writing and problem solving. A few companies actively recruit older employees but more need to do this to fight the problem of ageism in America.  A nationwide educational campaign needs to be launched to help this country overcome this problem. Older workers should be highly sought after assets instead of the first to be discarded.