Sunday, April 5, 2015

Older, Wiser and Unemployable

Ageism is defined as a tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention, or unsuitable for employment. Ageism is not just an employment issue; it's a societal problem.

While racism and sexism are predicated upon physical traits that will influence a biased treatment in the lives' of minorities and women at some point in their lives, everyone who becomes an older person will encounter ageism - regardless of race or gender.

When examining ageism, it's important to make the distinction between an older person and the elderly. An older person is one who is 40 or older (past one's prime).

An elderly person is one who is 65 or older (way past one's prime). If you happen to be elderly, you are viewed as done - done being viable. Done being relevant. Done being teachable. Done being productive. Done being employable.

One's prime is considered to be one's peak years of production or value; therefore, when one is older and has passed beyond that threshold, society (and employers) tend to view them in a state of decline. Whether that's perception or reality, something serves as the catalyst in the widespread replacement of older employees who have valuable experience (and higher salaries), with younger, inexperienced (and cheaper wages) employees, which according to employment reports are likely to work part-time hours.

The new part-time workforce is expected (and often required) to do something that older workers aren't accustomed to: Multitasking. Since more companies now hire one person to do the job of two or three, multitasking becomes almost essential despite the fact that studies consistently show that multitasking is not only bad for your brain, but is also an an impediment to productivity and a surefire way to comprise the quality of one's work.

Older workers are especially susceptible to the detriments of multiasking. Science has confirmed that the brain does begin to decline in one's 40s, but that decline is marginal and has been associated more with short term memory, which is crucial in roles where task switching (different from multitasking) is needed.

Unfortunately, as long as employers hold onto stereotypes about older workers, and favor fluid intelligence (possessed by those under 40) over crystallized intelligence (possessed by those beyond 40), they will not see that workforces can truly thrive with the right balance of youth and wisdom. Failure to do so will ensure that ageism continues to plague older generations and the elderly.

1 comment:

  1. I am currently doing some career advising for a couple of clients who are over the age of 50, who have been laid off from their jobs and are now having to conduct a job search for the first time in years. I can see firsthand just how viable these candidates are because of their experience and their wisdom. Not only that, they have kept up with technology. In fact, one of them is up on the latest technology that I have yet to learn about. Their skills combined with their experience, wisdom, and desire to stay relevant make them OPTIMAL candidates in my opinion.