Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Prejudice Against Older Workers

In years past, workers retired at 65, with a big party, bestowed a golden watch, and went throughout the rest of their life receiving their gracious pensions.  Many retirees lived happily their remaining days, sometimes as few as a fews weeks to a couple of years. 

A lot as happened since Social Security was passed around the 1940s.  People live longer, healthier lives.  American's life expectancy increased from the early 70s to the mid-80s, and with the rapid advances in medicine, life expectancies may be in the 100s in the near future.  At the same time, there are fewer union members and fewer workers are entitled to pensions outside Social Security.   So, there will be older people who will live longer with less ability to retire.  

Instead of valuing the older, experienced workers with proven track records of hard, valuable work, we are in the habit of letting these workers go.  The ones who still want to work probably won't be dying in a year or two, like in olden times.   They may have 10 to 20 good years left.  Just look at what the Kansas City Chiefs did with their older department heads- they fired them all.  Loyalty is a one way street for these companies.  People are commodities. Look at the famous CEOS like Jack Welsh at GE, constantly firing the bottom 10%, regardless of whether the whole company was performing. Jack Welch, I suspect, is a very sad and mean man. He fires his wives like he fires his employees. 

We are ignoring the contributions in the workplace and in society of people over 50. Only in government, where CEOs don't make the decisions, can older workers prevail.  The average age of U.S. Senators is over 60.  In the U.S. Supreme Court, it is probably over 70. 

Why do we treat older Americans with such disrespect?  Do we assume they have dementia? Do we blame them for moving slower?  Do we think they are resistant to change?

Older workers suffer discrimination as much or more than any other protected group.  There is something wrong with this.  It stinks. 


  1. Agreed. For all the "negatives" some employers may assume about "older" workers, a lot of negatives can be assumed about "younger" workers -- and an employer should not be basing their hiring decisions on ANY of these assumptions, let alone be explicitly asking about them.
    It does make hiring a crapshoot and an employer can come off looking like a paranoiac or blissfully ignorant. Sigh.

  2. And it's an ugly, ugly, dark secret that companies can and do discriminate against them (us, frankly).

    It stinks.