Remember when to be considered a senior someone had to be over the age of 65? Then 60? Now, some places consider a person “mature” when they reach the ripe old age of 55. Since we will all get there someday if we’re lucky, it makes one ponder the advantages and disadvantages of growing older in a society that, unlike many other cultures, does not generally seem to value those who have reached that particular milestone.
Yes, there are a few perks, like discount movie tickets and the senior side of the menu at Dennys (yes, I’ll admit a bit of sarcasm there). What about the more serious side? It is a fact that most people in the U.S. who reach the age of retirement lack sufficient means to live a comfortable life, let alone merely eek out an existence. Some have not planned properly, but many have simply fallen victim to the economic downturn our society has taken in recent years. So, what do they do? Multitudes do not have a choice, and turn to disability or welfare due to their inability to work for health or other reasons. Still, this is rarely enough to subsist. Those who are fortunate to have the capacity and willingness to find suitable employment are faced with an entirely different conundrum. Ageism—that horrible, discriminatory and often abusive attitude that permeates almost every facet of our society.
Take the case of a good friend of mine who, through no fault of her own, found herself in the unenviable position of having to start over again from square one at the age that most people would be planning their retirement. This is a woman who is extremely bright, personable, intuitive and capable, with a resume that is beyond impressive. Yet, she cannot find a proper job to suit her talents. Why? Realism dictates that either or both of two conditions exist; those who are hiring feel she is over-qualified and are intimidated by her credentials, and/or they look at her resume and wonder, “How the heck old is she? We’re looking for someone under 40. She can’t possibly be ‘with it’.” People with that attitude should make a visit to their local senior center. The one in my neighborhood has a marvelous computer lab that is staffed with assistants who generally stand around bored with nothing to do. You see, the clients there, with an average age of 85, already have the computers all figured out. Why is it that we trust only those over 40 to run our country, but insist that companies must be run and managed by those much younger? Perhaps it’s time for a new campaign called #MeToo+.
My friend possesses experience, wisdom and perspective that classes, books and online chat rooms can never teach. Age is simply a number and, if those doing the hiring would be willing to acknowledge that, they’d see a potential co-worker with an amazing amount of resources they could tap into. There’s an old saying that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes of their predecessors. Similarly, those who ignore wisdom and experience will not learn the lessons their elders have to teach them and will likely make mistakes they could have avoided. Now, that’s not to say that the younger generation doesn’t have much to contribute. They, too, have a fresh perspective, energy and enthusiasm granted to them by virtue of their youth that is essential to progress. They are the future. The point I’m trying to make is that it is the melding of these two attitudes and perspectives that creates the magic. If both generations are willing to accept and understand each other’s viewpoints and work together, the results can be far more powerful than either one alone.
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