The workplace is our home away from home where we spend much of our daily supply of energy and creativity. It's where we share our aspirations, family experiences, concerns, and opinions with others. The workplace is where we cultivate reliability, loyalty, teamwork and a network of acquaintances and close friendships; it's a place where we work hard, have fun and celebrate new horizons. It is here where we will attune or learn our skills, bond with peers as we become (or continue to be) part of today's diverse workforce.

Today, corporate movers and shakers are very sensitive about workplace diversity and believe strongly in its message of opportunity, acceptance, growth and variance. However, there is one group in this family of diversity that has been ignored - and in many cases - completely eliminated. The elimination of this group leaves a societal gap in the workplace and those who remain are being conditioned to believe that only the young work while the old are relegated to retirement. It is unfortunate that because of biases against aging, many older workers are being denied a place in today's diverse workplace.

As an administrative consultant, I work with many companies and have seen the obvious absence of a 50-Something workforce. Part of the reason for this absence of older workers is due to company downsizing. To save money and make money for the stockholders, employees are being fired and many are over 50 years of age. Companies like to call this "early retirement." Later when the dust settles, older workers' vacant jobs are replaced by younger employees who will work for less money. Most people who lose their jobs after 50 do not willingly retire. They need to work!

Today's older worker faces ageism stereotypes. They are often stereotyped as difficult to instruct, rigid regarding change, frequently absent due to illness, and inclined to coast through their last few years on the job. Not true! Age alone is a poor indicator of one's competence. Health and mental dexterity depend largely upon environment and heredity which varies greatly among people of the same age.

Endurance: Most jobs today do not require great strength or heavy lifting.

Reliability: Human Resource Surveys indicate older workers have outstanding attendance records. In most cases, the demands of family life is minimal.

Flexibility: U.S.Department of Employment evaluation statistics reveal that the majority of older workers are flexible in accepting change in occupation and earnings.

Adaptability on the job: People vary in personality and intelligence; each individual is unique. Also, people can be rigid at any age!

Salary Requirements: Employment studies and National Human Resource statistics show older workers are willing to take less salary when beginning a new position just as younger workers are. Mature employees cost less to train and bring extensive experience to the workplace.

Employment managers and counselors need to actively recruit seasoned workers. Older people can be an asset to most companies as consultants or employees. Many service jobs demand skills such as patience, perception and customer rapport that older people excel at. Their life experiences help them in dealing with customer problems.

It is difficult to really pinpoint the reason(s) for an employer's age bias? CEO's may not want to pay higher salaries. Perhaps "older workers" health insurance is too high or the company wants energetic young thinkers. Ironically, often the CEO has the only gray hair in the company. Employees deserve respect and need to feel confident that what they discuss with a supervisor will be kept in confidence. Sorry to say, this is not always the case. It has been my experience that many young managers and/or supervisors lack discretion and confidentiality. They want to be popular and fit in with everyone. Some of them find it uncomfortable counseling older workers so when an older person has a problem to discuss, it can really become a problem.


Here is what one state is doing to get the ball rolling! In Boise, Idaho, Governor Phil Batt announced that Idaho's Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) led the nation last year in the unsubsidized placement of older workers.

Idaho's SCSEP older worker program achieved a 61.3 percent unsubsidized placement rate, which means Idaho placed six persons for every 10 positions compared to the national goal of two in ten.

"I applaud the statewide Older Worker staff and the Idaho Commission on Aging for a job exceptionally well done," Governor Batt said. "Although many older workers have years of experience and excellent skills, others need training and work experience to successfully compete for jobs. The excellent coordination of this program with Idaho's Job Training Partnership Program coupled with an emphasis on retraining has made a real difference for many older Idahoans." Other states have similar programs.


Generally speaking, many companies and corporations are denying the older person a right to work Whether it's due to downsizing or age bias, young and old are being denied the experience of working side-by-side. They're denied the opportunity to share and resolve work situations with persons whose perspective and experience (though different) could be instructive and innovative from both perspectives.

Surprise! In 1997, here in California, courts and lawmakers gave employers the go ahead to hire young workers over older workers in order to save money. And you thought California was liberal.

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