Friday, December 18, 2009

Pardon Me While I Rant About Ageism

(Note: I am also posting this article to my other blog, Divinipotent Daily.) 

"I could not, at any age, be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on."
Eleanor Roosevelt

This morning a newsletter from The Boomer Blog (which is exactly what it sounds like) included a link to an article that infuriated me. The title: "Age can affect job performance and more." The author, Linda Stollings, is a personal fitness trainer. She notes that "According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), workers aged 55 and older will account for almost 50 percent of projected labor force growth between 2002-2012." And then she goes on to say, "Now that’s a problem any way you look at it." Really? Any way you look at it?

It's certainly a problem if you look through Ms. Stollings' eyes, where the view is filled with fat, old, self-indulgent fools who drank too much and ate too much throughout their lives and are now paying the price. They're in declining health and plagued by slip and fall injuries suffered while stumbling around the office. And let's not overlook the rising health care costs associated with aging workers. Ms. Stollings doesn't.

After reading her article, I wrote the following comment:

"While I realize the author is just trying to publicize her fitness training business, I have to object to the negative stereotypes this article promotes. Older workers who lose their jobs must spend twice as long hunting for new ones as younger people. This just adds to their problems. Why not write about what a drag it is to hire women, since they might have babies and take maternity leave? Or what about young people? They don’t know anything and training is expensive. Think that’s ridiculous? That’s how this article sounds to me."

"Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you have not committed."
~ Anthony Powell

Ms. Stollings might have quoted a different AARP statistic — the one that found 60 percent of workers aged 45 to 74 have either experienced or witnessed age discrimination. Ageism may be against the law in all fifty states, but it remains one of the last "acceptable" prejudices. I've been trying to figure out why that is. Here's what puzzles me: Most prejudices are rooted in fear of "others" — people and things that are unfamiliar and seem not like ourselves. But aging is different. It's happening to all of us all of the time. Why are we so afraid of our futures? 

"No wise man ever wished to be younger."
~ Jonathan Swift