This article is about Ageism in the United States. Ageism shows up in every industry–in corporations, small businesses, hospitals, retail stores, start-ups, restaurants–everywhere.
What Is Ageism Anyway?
In terms of employment, ageism may start at around the age of 45 and the likelihood of it increases each year. If you’re 65, don’t even bother looking for work. You search for work and never get the job even though you’re eminently qualified. Here are other examples:
- All of a sudden you’re offered early retirement. What a shock.
- You hear through the grapevine that you probably don’t have the stamina for the job.
- Or you hear that you’re not up to date on the latest technology.
- All of a sudden, you’re thought to be mentally and intellectually challenged.
- You might become a victim of Elder Abuse–being perceived as worthless and annoying.
- Instead of feeling seen or heard, you feel invisible and ignored–often leading to depression.
Here’s a story about Ageism that might sound familiar:
Imagine for a moment that it’s August, 2020. The pandemic has ravaged us and our economy since March, 2020 with NO sign of slowing down. You’re the VP of Marketing in a medium sized company. You’re 52 years old. The company had a great year in 2019 which continued into early 2020. But now sales are slipping, and even though other companies have begun to lay off their employees, you’re not too worried about your job. You’ve been a valued member of the upper management team for 20 years, and have helped grow the company substantially year after year until now. But this year, it seems nothing you do makes a difference. People are simply not buying your products.
One day, your CEO calls a special meeting of all middle and upper level managers. You take your seats in the conference room, pens and pads in hand, waiting to hear what she has to say. As she makes her announcements, your stomach drops to the floor. You receive the white envelope holding your fate. You’ve been laid off. Shock, fear, and terror rip through your mind. It wouldn’t have been so bad if your wife hadn’t also been laid off. What do you do now?
You think severance, unemployment . . . they will help until everything gets back to normal, right? You tell yourself that your company will hire you back then. In the meantime, you begin to look for another job. NOTHING!!! After looking for a few months, you’re desperate. There are simply NO JOBS available. At this point, you’ll settle for anything.
Then a former employee of your former company calls and says he’s heard they’re hiring again. Thank God. You’re thrilled. Now you can get your old job back. You call the CEO and tell her you’re ready to jump back in. SILENCE! When you finally reach her, she apologizes and says your old job has been filled. Again you’re in shock. You find out later that they’ve hired a 25 year old at half of your former salary. AGEISM.
I used to work in Silicon Valley, and cannot tell you how often I heard this story. It was a slaughter-house there in 2001 and 2002. People were getting laid off all over the place. It happened to me five times. I still have nightmares. I moved down to Orange County in 2003 . . . still couldn’t find a job and then started my own insurance business in 2004.
What Can We Casualties Do?
- Make a plan. You’ve been working non-stop for years, and likely didn’t think about what you really want to do. Take some time to assess your likes and dislikes. What are your assets? How long can you stay unemployed? Can you retire or do you have to go back to work?
- If you have to work, use the internet to find age-friendly companies. (I have included a list of a few below). There are hundreds of organizations that can help you find a job even if you’re 70. The Resources section below shows several. Use all of the tools.
- One idea is to start your own business. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, now may be the time. If you have enough money to get through the early stages, wonderful. Make it a great success. Remember to do your research.
- If you’re old enough for Social Security (62), and have a nice nest egg, you may want to retire or semi-retire. You could find something part-time or take up a hobby.
- You can retire completely.
- You might want to move to a less expensive area. There are lots of Ex-Pats in Cosa Rica, Mexico and South America.
- Of course, there’s always Walmart. Sad, but we know it’s true.
If you experience Ageism, the following organizations may be able to help:
- Guiding Principles for Age-Friendly Businesses
- Certified Age Friendly Employer program.
Here are companies that are known to really care about their older workers:
- Home Depot
- Intel Home Instead Senior Care
- Nestle Skin Health
- S&P Global
- Certified Age Friendly Employer program
- SafeStreets USA. Corporate headquarters: Kent, Washington
- Aptive Environmental. Corporate headquarters: Provo, Utah
- Liberty Tax Service. Corporate headquarters: Virginia Beach, Virginia
- OMNI Systems
- Franklin International
- Government Accountability Office (GAO)