I’m back again today to talk about getting older and aging for my birthday month series. Today’s topic is ageism.
Combatting ageism is such an important priority in society that it is one of the main pillars of the World Health Organization’s Decade of Healthy Ageing. Despite the diversity that people add to our society at all ages, there’s still a lot of discrimination and prejudice against those people that we no longer feel are as productive or as healthy and able as those of us who are younger, and this has a huge impact on many areas in society.
First, let’s look at ageism in the workforce. Your age is protected in the workplace by the EEOC and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. However, it’s very hard to prove that you didn’t get a job, or you didn’t get a promotion, or you were let go first because of your age. So this becomes problematic and hard to prove.
Ageism in jobs and the workforce is prevalent and is a huge problem because 29% of U.S. households are headed by people aged 55 or older that do not have retirement savings or pensions. This means they need jobs and to continue gainful employment, or they’re going to have to try to survive in poverty on Social Security when they retire.
So they need jobs. They want jobs. They have decades of experience and need to be able to continue to make a living beyond middle-age. They may not qualify for Medicare or Social Security yet. This means they have to get low skill or low-wage jobs just to survive until they do qualify for these programs. Even with these programs in place, many older Americans anticipate working well beyond retirement age, on average, another six to seven years.
Another reason it’s important to combat ageism in our workforce is because older people who don’t feel useful or valued are three times more likely to develop chronic conditions and disabilities and four times more likely to die prematurely.
That’s a big deal.
And don’t even get me started on ageism in healthcare. (Actually, I will start that tomorrow. It’s not pretty.)