Age Discrimination and the Older Worker

Employers in Canada and the U.S.A. have largely abolished mandatory retirement and opened the gates for unretired Boomers to keep working. What lingers is possible age discrimination which will vary in degree, depending on the work setting.

For those un-retired workers who need or chose to keep working up to and past 65, ageism is a force that can work against your success in doing so.

Not only is age discrimination painful, it is unfair and can pose a barrier to finding or maintaining a job. It can also be experienced in settings other than the workplace.

age discriminationWork related ageism is due to long-held cultural beliefs and policies that we stop working at or before 65, because at this age we are too old to work.To be accurate, older workers who have attitude, skill and/or health issues, may no longer be competitively employable.

Human Rights and Discrimination

The Ontario Human Rights Commission describes age discrimination in employment as: “Assumptions and stereo-types about older workers are unfortunately all too prevalent in our workplaces. Older workers are often unfairly perceived as less productive, less committed to their jobs, not dynamic or innovative, un-receptive to change, unable to be trained or costly to the organization due to health problems and higher salaries. These ideas about older workers are simply myths that are not borne out by evidence. In fact, there is significant evidence that older workers:are highly-productive, offering considerable on the job experience;

  • do as well or better than younger workers on creativity, flexibility, information processing, accident rates, absenteeism and turnover;
  • can learn as well as younger workers with appropriate training methods and environments;
  • and do not fear change but rather discrimination.

In the United States, employment-related age discrimination charges can be filed through the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In Canada the governing body is the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Effects of Ageism and its Practice in the Workforce

Jen Laskey (2008) provides the following definition of Ageism and the psychological effects. “Ageism refers to a basic denial of older people’s human rights. The term was coined in 1968 by Robert N. Butler, M.D., a gerontologist, psychiatrist, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author. Like racism or sexism, ageism has a myriad of negative effects on emotional well-being. Age-based discrimination can decrease one’s self-esteem; it can cause feelings of stress, anxiety, guilt, shame, or helplessness. Others may also be quick to accept stereotypes about aging, thus compounding these effects.”

Alison Doyle, a job search expert advises that “Employment discrimination happens when a job seeker or an employee is treated unfavorably because of his or her race, skin color, national origin, gender, disability, religion, or age.”

The next paragraph is of particular interest to unretired Boomers:

How ageism is practiced is summarized by Kacey Stapleton (2009) in the following excerpt: “Ageism in the workplace is usually seen as a prejudice against anyone nearing or passing the standard age of retirement. Discrimination can either be systematic or incidental denial of employment, advancement or fair treatment. Systematic discrimination means an employer deliberately instructs management either against hiring individuals of a certain age or to force out workers as they near the age of retirement.” 

Age discrimination can occur not only from a younger person towards an older one, but also in the other direction. Members of the older generation may view younger workers as inexperienced, or not reliable to name a few additional stereotypes, and values can clash. These types of discrimination issues can be found in the increasing number of inter-generational workplaces.

Beliefs Underlying Ageism

A post retrieved from the Older Adults-Aging in Canada website (2012) indicates that: “Older adults in the workplace are often perceived to be lower in productivity, slower in decision making, resistant to change, and slow to learn. Evidence suggests that this is not the case. Even with radical changes in technology and the expectations of faster and more intensified work, older workers are as productive as their younger counterparts with the appropriate training.

The central issue is not necessarily what your age is, but one of attitude of those perpetuating ageism. Read the list of six common stereotypes below and determine if they hold true for you. If so then it will become your homework to address them as need be.

  • Have Reduced Learning Capacity
  • Possess Outdated Skills
  • Are Resistant to Change
  • Demand Higher Wages
  • Demonstrate Slower Decision- Making
  • Have Lower Productivity

In the next post I will provide strategies to encounter the 6 common stereotypes above that can act as barriers to staying employed. By confronting ageism in the labour market, un-retired Boomers may defuse this form of discrimination not only for themselves, but also the younger generations that follow.



Are you a Baby Boomer working past 65?

financial freedomIf so, you have joined the Un-Retired club which has many members!

“Un-Retirement” is the growing trend away from earlier retirement, by choice or economic necessity, towards continuing to work past the age of 65. This post will focus on those un-retired persons who need to keep working longer out of economic necessity.

It doesn’t matter whether your collar is blue, pink, green or white, Un-Retired Boomers come from all occupations and income levels.

White collar workers (those that perform professional, managerial, or administrative work) may have more formal education, and a higher working income, but they are not excluded from un-retirement. These workers can find themselves impacted by global market changes, forced layoff, or job loss for other causes with their retirement savings interrupted. The news media is filled with numerous stories:

  • offshoring of white collar jobs and in some cases moving entire companies overseas;
  • corporate downsizing and the resulting reduction of management positions; and
  • automation through digital technologies with job redundancy or loss.

A large number of Un-Retired Boomers in North America never fit into the financial industry’s “freedom 50 Plus” model. This is due to the many personal and market events and circumstances that can prevent this from happening by or before, what was once the mandatory age of retirement at 65.

Zoomer Media Limited (2012) informs us “Data from Statistics Canada and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that a growing number of people are not retiring at age 65. In Canada, the percentage of participation in the labor force by people age 55 and up is at an all-time high. Experts believe the trend will continue, permanently wiping out the idea that 65 is a magic number signifying the end of the income-earning years. In both Canada and the USA, about 30% of people aged 65-69 are still working, either full time or part time. That age break captures only a tiny percentage of Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom just entered retirement age. The rest of the wave – now aged 47 to 64 – are still outside that traditional retirement benchmark. What will they do when they hit the number? The research is clear: they’ll keep right on working.”

Born between 1946 and 1964, there are approximately 76 million Baby Boomers in the USA and 10 million in Canada.

For the older worker who hasn’t accumulated enough assets to have the choice whether they want to keep working or not, the options are limited. Working longer (Un-Retired) and consuming less, saving more from any income derived is the primary strategy, ideally at a job you like and one that provides adequate compensation. This work could be in the form of part time, casual, seasonal, full time or self-employment, depending on the individual needs and employment situation.

Staying gainfully employed for an Un-Retired worker can be challenging enough if you are in good health. If a disabling health event occurs before a sufficient nest egg is established, then the strategy described above might not be available. This would depend on the severity of the disability and what level of recovery occurs. Working longer may not be possible and barring a windfall or other injection of funds, these folks essentially become unemployed and un-retired at whatever level their savings after the fact, allow. This may require downsizing and/or consolidation to reduce expenses or if there is debt with a decrease in standard of living.

There are Un-Retired individuals though, who work longer and achieve whatever their definition of financial freedom is, so all is not gloom and doom!

It appears true the well worn cliché that health is wealth and for un-retired Boomers, being pro-active with our health and wellness is key to increase the potential of reaching financial and other life goals.