Thats no surprise, because its tough finding a job most anywhere once youve passed a certain shelf life. For instance, we took a pass on hiring an older worker for a position at the Express years ago. The job applicant had plenty of experience, but seemed to be mostly interested in looking for an easier job -- a place to coast until retirement.
Coasting doesn‘t move a business forward. We hired someone with less experience, but much more drive -- who happened to be younger.
So, memo to older job-seekers: use those streetwise years of guile and experience to look like two sticks of dynamite in an orange juice can, ready to explode with energy and ideas to solve every problem your potential employer might have to get past the roadblock of ageism.
In truth, ageism is a fact of life for people at any stage.
Consider the young. When you go to an upscale restaurant in Northern Michigan, chances are the clientele are older people of considerable girth, dressed up in golf clothes who give the impression that theyre loaded. Your typical rap star, blathering about his bling with a gold chain around his neck, doesnt come close to expressing the contentment of the golden oldies you see out socializing in Northern Michigan.
But the people serving these mid-to-elderly folks tend to be young. Theyre making minimum wage (or less, with tips), living with roommates or in the tight circumstances of a young family, just trying to get by. Is it ageism, or just the way it is?
Consider who got hit the hardest when John Engler raised the sales tax to six percent several years ago. It was the young. Taxes on consumption affect the young the most because they have the most things to buy: washers, dryers, furniture, kids clothes, sports gear -- all the things that older people already own. There are also higher mortgage rates for younger people because of their low credit rating status, or because they cant afford a hefty down payment thats less of a problem for someone older and more established.
This is institutionalized ageism against the young. Anytime a political candidate talks about ditching the income tax in favor of a flat tax on consumption, hes promoting a scheme that sticks it to the have-nots of the young while letting older, richer people off the hook. But young people are so politically clueless, they dont realize that such ageist schemes are giving them the shaft.
Middle-aged persons also have concerns with ageism. As many Americans are finding out, job insecurity can arise during middle age precisely at a time when youre trying to put kids through college, take care of elderly parents, and tuck away something for your retirement.
I once worked for a corporation where people in their 50s routinely got the axe. You got the impression they were let go because they were at the top of their pay grades and vacation benefits, and a younger employee could do the job for less money.
Thats precisely what happened to 3,400 older employees at Circuit City this year. The company gave loyal long-time employees the boot to fill their jobs with lower-paid, younger replacements. According to Manpower, Inc., seven percent of U.S. companies are copying the same plan.
Seniors feel the pain of ageism more than most, often for the simple fact that they may have few people to talk to. People who will fuss for hours over a cute baby will thoughtlessly ignore a “boring“ senior. Perhaps this is evidence that ageism is biologically hard-wired into us to move the human race along its evolutionary path.
Currently, theres a huge telemarketing scam that involves ripping off lonely old folks who have no one to talk to except the friendly caller who needs their banking information to solve a problem. The information is sold to identity thieves who plunder the bank accounts of trusting old folks. According to the Wall Street Journal, pumping lonely seniors for their money now accounts for 30 percent of the telemarketing industry.
Also, the press is littered with stories about the crisis of the Baby Boom generation retiring with not enough money to live on. Its the old fable of the grasshopper and the ant. There arent many wise ants in my generation, saving diligently for the winter of our lives. Instead, weve got a lot of grasshoppers whove mortgaged their homes three times over to buy sport cars and speed boats, with not much in the retirement kitty.
Will my generation be the victims of ageism? Will younger folks tell us to take a hike and refuse to super-size our Social Security benefits? Lets hope not; more likely, there will be kindness and sensitivity on the part of the young, with thoughtful (and painless) assisted-suicide programs to ease us quietly into the night of the last big sleep.
And then it will be their turn, as the great wheel of ageism grinds round and round.