Is ageism new standard of discrimination in workplace?

2017-11-24 10:48:37

In our lifetime, there used to be a time when a job was for life, one was loyal to one’s life-long job and there were other things important than an increase in salary and quick promotions to the top. But today, in the age of instant promotions, fat allowances and younger the better concept, such trends seem ancient and long forgotten.
Although healthcare has improved globally, giving people longer lives and sophisticated medicine, the same old standards of retirement in your 50s stand. Those standards came into play back when life expectancy was less and commuting was hard and long. 

But today, we live in the age of telecommuting, which allows you to work from anywhere. We also have better healthcare and most people in their 50s today are no longer ready for retirement but are eager to work for many more years. They still have plenty of experience and ability left in them to contribute to work in a meaningful way.

Yet, in the age-obsessed Silicon Valley and other trendy hip places, the younger the better has been holding sway over the experience and the discipline of older workers. But that seems to be changing. 

Bloomberg recently reported that companies are having second thoughts about allowing older workers to retire. They are now pursuing a different strategy that is assuring older workers that the ageism is no longer applicable as a blanket discrimination for all. Companies such as IBM, Ford and Barclays are apparently pursuing older workers with optimism. 

It seems many of the companies are choosing to rehire older workers – marking a reversal in the less well- reported trend of older workers facing age bias. They apparently cost less than 25 percent of hiring new, younger workers according to some estimates.

So, what else do older workers bring to the table and why?

Experience is invaluable; it is tough to place a price on the level of experience older workers bring into companies. In this age of instant updating, social media metrics and tech-driven objectives, experience still is a commodity worth its price. Older workers possess that in plenty – they have years of experience, which naturally, after some 20 years on the job, transfer into expertise. Experience and expertise are some of the biggest fortes older workers can leverage on. Companies can rely on both in today’s competitive world.

The older the employee, chances are that he or she is also capable of discipline and timely delivery. They may not necessarily work longer hours but are capable of delivering what is needed on time. They understand how office dynamics work.

They have years spent in understanding and learning what gives and what doesn’t. They also have a great virtue the young can learn from – patience. They often have intuition into knowing what needs to be left on the back burner long enough to simmer down and what needs attention and when. 

In fairness to the young, they bring so many to the table that the older generation can learn from. They are not afraid to take risks and are tech savvy to the point that they can make a trend happen or follow one that can make or break markets. In the end, they have a skill set that the older generation can learn from, yet the goods are stacked more in favour of the older workers to be able to give a whole lot more to making things work.

There are other factors at work too. Given the fact that 50 is the new 30, the older workers are still very active socially and work wise. They exercise and are conscious of health trends. Their kids have typically left home and they have plenty of time left to give to the world. They can handle responsibility better and are often grateful for jobs that still add meaning to their lives.

Those older workers who choose to engage in work find that they are actually emotionally satisfied when they can work; it is said to improve their health mentally and physically. They prefer to be known and trusted for what they can offer to making decisions rather than being labelled as retired or irrelevant. 

They still want to be useful and would often be only too happy to give of their time and effort towards work. Many have chosen to master technology – one of the biggest disadvantages some companies hold against them – and have gone on to perfect social media and the Internet. In fact, I have personally seen how it empowers some of them so well that they actually enjoy being on social media apps like Facebook.

It has become trendy to care about discrimination today but sadly, ageism doesn’t seem to be among the hot topics. Many an older worker has gone home with a dejected face on retirement day. For years, they have toiled and given their companies the best years of their lives and they would be happy to go on – if only they are given the opportunity. 

(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at


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