OW or OG (Older Workers or Old Geezers): The country still needs us


Some companies might have this stereotype of an older worker, but we know the value of wrinkles and gray hair.

Some companies might have this stereotype of an older worker, but we know the value of wrinkles and gray hair.

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.

We can't all be Wal-Mart greeters or run for state senator.

We can’t all be Wal-Mart greeters or run for state senator.

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.

Would it help to get Botox treatments and change our hair color?

Would it help to get Botox treatments and change our hair color?

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).

Launched in July of 2014, this memoir contains humorous essays that were originally published as newspaper columns throughout a 30 year career.

Launched in July of 2014, this memoir contains humorous essays that were originally published as newspaper columns throughout a 30 year career.

Retirement primer: Teaching old dogs new tricks

When you retire, the learning doesn't stop. It's just time to stop chasing cars.

When you retire, the learning doesn’t stop. It’s just time to stop chasing cars.

Someone should have warned us about this retirement thing. They should have given us some sage advice that could have prevented the mild (as yet) malaise that set in by the first full month after selling a business and going on Social Security.

It would have helped to know the following:

• The moment you creep toward that magic age of 65, whether you’re officially retired or not, your phone and mail will be inundated with solicitations by insurance companies, reverse mortgage outfits and community volunteer organizations. Many of them entice you with a free dinner at a posh restaurant so they can strong arm you about shifting your retirement funds into fixed annuities, then try to make you feel guilty if you don’t rush right out to transfer those hard-earned bucks. Save yourself some grief and pay for your own night out.  Heck, even the hearing aid purveyors want to give you a $10 gift card to come and get a free hearing test. And if you don’t know how to say no at this stage of life, your retirement will turn into a community volunteer’s nightmare and busier than work life ever thought about being.

The folks that eat away at your time are still in the 9-5 world and just trying to earn a living, bless their little hearts. But they take up (make that waste) a lot of your time. Schedule them judiciously or just tell them politely you don’t need to tour a timeshare because you just bought an RV. You don’t need dental insurance because you have dentures. You don’t need new windows or siding because you just retired and have no disposable income. You’ve already invested your retirement funds and life insurance cash with your longtime and trusted agents. Or, do as my husband often does to get rid of a call center salesperson. He adopts a foreign accent and tells them the owner of the house is out of the country.

• While it may seem so appealing, now that you’re not going to the office every day, to stay in  your pajamas until 11 a.m. sipping coffee and playing on the ipad, the new wears off quickly. You’re reduced to crankiness and feeling totally out-of-sorts and finally realize it’s because you haven’t shampooed your hair, had your skin pores awakened with a hot shower or just generally taken care of yourself.

A good rule here is to develop some kind of routine that mimics your old workaday one. Okay, sleep an extra hour if it suits you, but go for a walk or get on the treadmill, hop in the shower, get dressed like you’re going to the office  (sans the earrings and makeup if you don’t feel like it) and do something useful.

• For many retirees, once the excitement of a new way of non-pressured life wears off, depression can set in. Where’s the motivation now? Where’s the purpose and the reason to get out of bed? The amount of seratonin and dopamine in our brains is already diminished at this age, so we’re in a position to get completely mentally compromised in retirement.

It’s important in retirement to re-purpose ourselves. Shift the skill set we acquired in our long careers into something we can continue to use so it doesn’t rust. Why do you think I’m writing a blog, for God’s sake?! The habits and ego boosts gained over 25 years of writing a regular newspaper column will not go quietly into the night. If I don’t feed the little monsters they’ll just fade away and leave me a blubbering and speechless idiot. Some would probably prefer that, but it ain’t gonna happen near soon.

• When you retire, if you’re joining a spouse in this new lifestyle, realize that sudden togetherness, full-time, is fraught with emotional land mines. We’ll leave that whole subject for another blog.