One of my favorite bloggers writes today about the stereotypes of ageism and sexism that are eroding our culture. In her blog Kristen Lamb points out that dumb blonde jokes and admonitions to never trust anyone older than 30 have reached the point of destructiveness. My own recent experiences in trying to find a part time job underline this country’s continuing disregard for the value of older workers of any hair color.
Upon attaining Medicare and Social Security age, we are immediately (if not previously) relegated to the trash can status of societal leech and entitlement hog. Accused by younger types of the impending collapse of the country’s economy by how we will soon overwhelm the system, the logical, if unspoken choice, would be to slit our throats and save the world.
Today, as I read through yet another job board in a search of at least part time employment to supplement an income pecked away by the vultures of high grocery prices and escalating utility bills, I noticed a glaring omission. Among all the companies professing to be Equal Employment Opportunity firms, somehow the promise of non-discrimination did not extend to age.
Try doing a Google search for Older Workers of America, in pursuit of an organization dedicated to promoting the value of employment opportunities for people over 50 and you won’t get many specific results. That organization doesn’t exist, but it should.
In 2010, the labor force participation rate for people age 65 and older was 22.1% for men and 18.8% for women, up 17.7% and 9.4% respectively. The Census blog that quotes that statistic speculates it is possibly due to changes in pension plans, changes in the full Social Security retirement age to 67, increased life span and improved health for us older folks.
Despite the statistics, too many of us can’t find any type of work, unless we morph into, or continue being, entrepreneurs, devoting our work ethic to ourselves instead of a corporation.
As another sad testament to our decreasing visibility in the vitality of the nation through its corporations, AARP , has discontinued its annual award for the top 50 employers who hire older workers. This could be due to the fact that the majority of companies listed in 2013 were health care firms or universities. That doesn’t make for much of an awards program.
Not only do we battle discrimination in the potential workplace due to the number of years we have been dwelling on earth, but hair color goes against us too. In the comments section of Kristen’s blog, testimonials confirmed her take on hair color as a factor in how seriously we are perceived. Blondes who changed their hair color to brown have better chances of being hired and/or valued for their intellect. And I cringed upon reading that people with gray hair are considered “out of touch.” I need to show that comment to my husband the next time he complains about the $120 price tag for a haircut and highlights.
And now, I think it’s time to investigate what it will take to form OW or OG, while promising to never, ever tell a dumb blonde joke or an old geezer joke again.
Meanwhile, aging and the stereotypes associated with the process occupy an entire chapter to in my book, “Letters from Home: Adventures with Mad Mother, Lemonade Man and the Kid.” Check it out and see if you have similar experiences in turning into a human antique (available at Amazon in print and Kindle format, or through Smashwords).