VP Debate: Little Noted, Long Forgotten
INTERESTING STUFF – 9 October 2016

How Age Discrimination Affects People of All Ages

Maybe some of you noticed a few typos and other mistakes in Monday's post. After Crabby Old Lady, a couple of weeks ago, wrote about how these errors have increased as she has grown older, I have been more diligent about trying to catch them before publishing.

That increased attention has, at best, resulted in marginal improvement – even when giving it a rest before editing. Worse, the mistakes I miss become glaringly apparent, somehow, once the story is posted online. I don't understand why that happens but it does. Frequently if not daily.

And sometimes, even my corrections need correcting.

Soon after I began this blog in March of 2004, I was fired from my job. It had nothing to do with my performance – it was “just business” and I wasn't the only one. The real difficulty came when I tried to find another job.

My younger fired colleagues, in their 20s and 30s, found work within a few weeks or a couple of months. In a year, I was able to get just two interviews.

One of those hiring managers, who had been enthusiastic enough on the telephone to invite me to an in-person interview early the next morning, suddenly remembered, after seeing me, that the job had somehow been filled since our late-afternoon phone conversation.

So sorry to inconvenience you, he said, etc. etc.

By then I was so deeply in debt that I was forced to give up the job search, sell my apartment in New York City and relocate to somewhere less expensive.

Here's another little story: I was in my mid-30s when the woman I worked for said during a staff meeting, “If you need Ronni to get anything done before the end of the day, be sure to ask her before 3PM; she's useless after that.”

We were a small group of friendly people producing a network TV show together and we all laughed – me too - because she was right. From mid-afternoon on my brain stopped working or, anyway, not as effectively as earlier in the day.

That doesn't mean I didn't pull all-nighters with everyone else, and travel for weeks on end living out of a suitcase and work on airplanes, in restaurants and cramped hotel rooms. But I was much slower after 3PM and made more mistakes, although in those days, they were easier for me to catch.

Here's a third little story – and revelation. For most of the time I've been turning out this blog, more than 12 years, I have believed and sometimes mentioned that had I been allowed, I was still capable of holding my own with colleagues, whatever their ages might be, at a full-time job.

And that was true for a long time. But now I must admit I can no longer do that, and have not been able to for two or three, maybe four years. Here is why:

Fixing the increase in typing errors (and who knows what else I can't do as efficiently as in the past) would eat up a lot of time that would otherwise be needed elsewhere

My intellectual fading by mid-afternoon happens even earlier nowadays. And recently, it is as much a physical impairment. I struggle daily to get both brain and body work finished before 2PM or so. After that I'm spent, and good for only more passive activities

My sleep difficulty – falling asleep in the early evening and waking in the middle of the night – would make a traditional job difficult and I have no idea, with somewhere to be every day at 8AM or 9AM, if the sleep schedule would right itself. So far, I haven't been able to change it

I'm 75 now, halfway to 76, still in good health but feeling the effects of the passage of time in not unexpected ways. Although people age at different rates - often dramatically so - eventually we must come to understand that we are less capable than we once were.

For me, that's now - admitting it to myself even though I've been trying to ignore it for a couple of years.

I am not surprised or much bothered by this realization but here is what does bother me – and I'm certain I'm not alone: if not for widespread age discrimination, I could have kept working for another eight or nine or ten years.

And look at what would have happened if our culture respected old people enough to not kick us out to pasture before our time:

I would have put away tens of thousands of more dollars toward my retirement

I would have paid tens of thousands of more dollars in federal, state and local taxes

I would have been able to postpone Social Security until age 70, leaving my contributions in the trust fund while also increasing the amount of my benefit

The timing would have allowed me to pay off the mortgage on my New York City apartment

All of which would have made it possible for me to remain in the city that is my home, my real home, the place where I belong.

I'm not alone. Think of that list in regard to the millions of people laid off after the 2008 crash who, thanks to the ageism of our culture, were then “too old” at 40 or 50 or 60 when the economy began to turn around, to work ever again in their field or at the salary they had been making when they were laid off.

Many also lost their homes, their savings and, of course, greatly reduced their Social Security benefit when they finally became eligible because old people, in our country, have no place in the workforce. This was not unique to the aftermath of the 2008 crash; it continues day in and day out in "normal" economic times too.

In the aggregate, age discrimination in the workplace is a tragedy affecting not only elders themselves who are fired or not hired, but all citizens due to hugely reduced tax revenue those elders would have contributed to the system if they were allowed to work. It affects our crumbling infrastructure, lack of public money to enforce regulations and laws, and diminishing support for education, among much more.

Those who perpetrate and perpetuate ageism are harming their country as much as they harm the individual workers they discriminate against.

Comments

I find as I've aged as I type errors occur because my fingers are ahead, or is it behind my thoughts.

I do think there needs to be an age limit for our President though. And probably the Supreme Court, then again it seems some of them are in tip top thought, or have great law clerks. :-) While were at it Congress should either have term limits or age limits. :-)

Because, at age 64, I'm slowing in my thinking and my energy wanes, I wonder how someone like Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Hillary Clinton keep up their pace. My husband reminds me that these people have staff. Yes, I could probably do more if I had staff to do the housekeeping chores that seem to take much of my time and energy.

Running errands also takes more energy than in my younger years when I could get up at 5 am, work all day, make 3 to 5 stops on my way home, fix dinner and do laundry once I was home, and then do it again the next day. I am envious of those days.

Thank you, Ronnie, for sharing your story and perspective. There's such value in being honest about both the realities of aging and the real manifestations of ageism.

After 30 years in publishing, I was fired the week of my 55th birthday. It cost me what would have been my 10 (or more) highest earning years. Two years of diligent job-hunting in two different markets produced few interviews and no job offers. (The interviewers were usually 20-30-something males.) You can imagine what that did to my self-esteem (along with the loss of potential earnings, etc.) Am I bitter? Nah ... only ... a lot.

I'm starting to look back on my 50s as "the good old days" of energy, that's for sure!

And as for typos, ouch--yes, more of them, me who once typed 105 words a minute.

And "retirement planning" for the outsourced 50-something, another "ouch." Most people are going to have almost no choices about retirement, something we are all belatedly discovering. I lost my last good job at 53 when we relocated for my husband's job (and then again, also cross-country, for another job). By then, I was 56, and the second job required a lot of support from me because the area was a difficult fit for us. Now I'm a sort-of semi-retired caregiver of 65. Social Security for me starts next year, and it would have been a ton more had I been able to continue at work for that last decade. No doubt about it.

Still I'm vastly luckier than a close high school friend. During our working lives, we held almost identical jobs, but I planned--and saved--a lot more. This was partly because we lived at the time in a much cheaper (but also more boring, so no temptation) area, so that was luck. Then I had an unexpected inheritance, so that was luck, too. Because of my husband's earnings, which ironically were possible because of my support during the relocations, I was able to grow the money and not spend it. Again, largely luck.

My friend, on the other hand, lost that last good job about five years ago and limped to Social Security, spending everything in his modest 401K. A windfall for him is enough cash from a temporary job to get new glasses. He has applied and interviewed tirelessly for an endless succession of jobs, but with no luck. I know he doesn't regret spending his life in a fast-paced and admittedly exciting area, but it left him in a very precarious position if anything else major goes wrong.

I absolutely have no idea what to tell today's college graduates about what their life plans should be. "Be lucky?" "Move to a low-key, low-cost town and eat a lot of macaroni and cheese?" I'm a little nostalgic for the days when adults knew exactly what young people "should" do to make everything come out perfectly. They were mostly wrong, of course, but imagine for a second how that security must have felt!

Ah yes, recently passed over for yet another promotion in public service. At least I have my entry level secretarial job and no one is going to pry that from my 57-year old hands.

It is almost comedic when I go in for interviews, the reaction to my age is classic. Because I am still attending college, the interviewer assumes I am in my mid-30s or 40s by reading my resume and I only reflect the last 20 years of employment. Some panels will grant me a full interview but others I have been shuttled through like "let's get this over with."

And a little back story, I was in private practice in a management position and as I aged, my earnings and benefits continued to be cut. My first major pay cut came the day I turned 50. That was special.

Thank you for this essay. At age 75, I make many more typos than I used to, so I go over everything, even Facebook postings, several times. Time-consuming, but people younger than I am let all their typos hang out there. Pride to fix what I can.

I was lucky work-wise because I worked in educational institutions so have a relatively safe State retirement program. Partly I did this because I believed in the purpose of college education and the students were fun to be around. And partly because security was and is important to me. I have not been part of a couple for about 10 years but do have a housemate. I pay all the house expenses and she does the cleaning and cat-sitting when I leave the house. Still, sometimes the responsibility of all that scares and fatigues me.

I took early retirement from a wonderful teaching job because I was having vision problems and panicked, thinking I was losing my eyesight. That was eighteen years ago. I really should have worked at least ten more years! As a result, I have a greatly reduced pension, but have managed very well on it. I am grateful for my health (and my adequate eyesight), and think sometimes that leaving my job early was a blessing.

Thank you, Ronnie, for your thoughtful column. Yes, ageism is cruel, certainly more so for women. We are all expected to gradually become invisible soon after 30 in this society.

I find that the older I get, the more invisible I become. Now that I'm 85, I find that even doctors' eyes tend to glaze over when I'm reporting a symptom (and not at any great length). It makes me not want to go to doctors if I can possibly avoid it.

However, as we all know, doctors are in the business of preventing death. In the case of an 85-year-old like me, others, docs are quite aware that their big enemy, DEATH, is not that far off, so they probably think, why get exercised?

However, I must report that one doctor, when asked by me, did tell me just what to expect if I decide to refuse food and drink when I'm terminal.

Curious One

What did he say about refusing food and drink?

Another curious one

Great column today, Ronni. And of course you are in good company with the "errors" problem.
I am reading Atul Gawande's book: "On Being Mortal" & I am learning so much. This is a brilliant physician & all I can say is if you haven't read it..........you should. There are some drs. out there who do understand that aging is a process of "wearing out" especially for so many of us like you Ronni who have no major health problems.

I'm a caregiver too & it gets harder every day just to get from am to pm. :):) LOL. Dee

I'm 72, and like many of you, I too lost my job as a manager in a career that paid a decent salary. I was in my 40's. I too went on interviews to no avail. Even to take a position at a lower position wasn't an option. The only jobs I could get were in retail sales paying minimum wage. I used up my retirement to survive and when I turned 62, took Social Security. It has been a struggle ever since.

I consider myself fortunate in that I'm still healthy and was able to take care of my invalid mother for the last five years of her life (in my late 50's and early 60's). It opened up another job market that I wasn't qualified for before. I also was hired at a local senior center as coordinator which has allowed me to use my previous business skills.

Is life easy? No, I have worked 6 and seven days a week for the past 10 years, but I have been able to have a decent, albeit simple life style. Am I happy? Yes, without question.

Age discrimination is real, it's painful but it can also be a catalyst.

WOW At first I feared that you were quitting the blog, and I was feeling sad. But it appears that you will press on, so I am happy again. I am 71. I retired at age 58, but I had a good pension plan and it was almost a buy out as they paid me for all of my accumulated sick days up to 200. This enabled me to update the appliances in my condominium, and take an Alaskan Cruise with my siblings and their spouses. Best vacation I ever took. I also retired the year of the 2003 midwest black out and I had time to have canned food and battery operated radios and was able to get by on my own pretty well for three days. I even helped neighbors.
But as time has gone by I discovered that I, too needed an afternoon nap and took it without guilt thanks to Dr. Oz and others. When I was 68, I noticed that my friends were all getting to be needy and I helped them by driving them places. Then they started to get really needy and even dying. I have found other interests to occupy me but find my energy levels going down, and health problems limit my activity as well.
I was so refreshed by your sharing as it told me that this is normal and I can just slow down and still enjoy life. Right now I am looking out at beautiful pink geraniums on the porch and sunshine and enjoying life even though my energy levels are lower, I can still do some things I just have to figure out what they are.

I was fortunate big-time to stay employed until six days before turning 78. In my late 60s I gradually reduced my hours from full to part time by mutual agreement with my then-boss. I should have put off collecting Social Security until I was 70 but started at 65--full retirement age. The "extra" money helped to replace the loss of my full time income. It wasn't squandered, but there wasn't as much known or publicized 15 years ago about the significant advantage of waiting until 70 to collect SS (if possible).

That said, my husband (87) and I (soon to be 80) can meet our monthly expenses as long as nothing catastrophic and unforeseen happens--like the owner of our manufactured home community decides to sell the property to a developer. And "OMG!" if one or both of us should need long term care or assisted living. We have some LTC insurance but not enough.

Until I stopped working I felt pretty much like I always had physically and mentally, but in the past two years not so much, although I've still avoided the major killer diseases. I'm losing the high-octane energy level I once had, my back and shoulders remind me regularly that I'm no longer 50 or even 60. I drop stuff, make typos (altho' I still catch most of them) and occasionally have a problem with understanding the dialog on some TV shows. I do NOT like any of this, including being called "dear", "hon" and similar appellations by total strangers, but it is what it is. I still miss working but have realized of late that I could no longer keep up. (BTW, Curious One, I'd like to know what that doctor said--I bet some other readers would also.)

My brother was recently laid off at age 60 with 2 children to still put thru school. My SIL thinks he's going to get another job in 6 mos. I don't say anything except to recommend a back up plan. Before he was laid off, he had a younger supervisor who always asked him what he hoped to advance to, what did he aspire to, what was his next step? My brother was in his late 50s. He was happy where he was at. He just wanted to work 6 more years. Is that so bad, to want to work for 6 more years & then retire? Why has working til retirement become such a bad thing? I thought these questions were ageist.

I have an aquaintaince from volunteer work who was laid off 2X during her 50s. She ended up filing for early SSA. She is barely eking out an existence.

RE: mistakes, yes, I am making more. Yes, I tire more easily. However, I am exercising more and I make an effort to leave the house everyday. Except for Sunday! LOL

Arthritis caused my middle fingers to list sideways so typos are a way of life for me now. My fingers hit the key that should be there only it turns out to be the next key over.

Now that's my excuse for most of my typos, but I have no excuse for the others. I recently typed a friend with the word slot in it. When I re-read it in her reply I caught my typo and instead of slot I had typed slob. The two letters are not next to each other, but separated by two rows on the keyboard. So there goes my typo excuse. And sometimes I type an extra letter in the word. Go figure.

The thing that really bothers me now is that I seem to make grammatical errors and don't see them until they are posted. It's as if my mind is dictating the sentence construction against my will.

I drop more things now and my fingers have a mind of their own. That's just the beginning of being a bigger klutz than I used to be. It never gets better.

I certainly agree with you and others about age discrimination. But I'll tell you one thing. I make fewer careless mistakes now than when I was young and in my 20s and was too busy and too distracted to pay attention to such details.

Talk about grammatical, errors..

I am right now watching a CNN piece about DT's vulgar comments on tape about women that was leaked to the WP.

While earning my way through university, I witnessed too many senior women get fired for no reason and replaced by younger secretaries.

Why? Looks.

There was no protection against sexist bosses in the workplace.

One senior woman was the sole supporter of her husband who had a work accident that rendered him blind.

The managers took total advantage of this woman, piling her desk with work, while flirting with the younger secretaries.

Will an appalling bag of wind become the next POTUS?

Looks like Team Trump has trapped itself inside a cavernous sinkhole.

Good luck with that.

As for typos - you can add the excuse I see on many emails:
'Sent from my mobile phone, excuse the typos and auto-corrections.'

I have hand tremors caused by the medications I am taking for other health issues. Some days are so bad that I have to use two hands to hold my drinking glass or coffee cup and can't type at all, other days I have little or no tremors. I also have tremors in my legs some days and have to walk slowly to make sure I don't lose my balance and fall over. Isn't life a barrel of laughs...

When the company I last worked for was purchased by a competitor my job was immediately redundant. I was International Operations Manager and shipped medical products all over the world. However, I was in Colorado and not many companies there did much exporting. Had I lived on either coast I would have had a much better chance of finding another job, but my husband, a mechanical engineer, had a good-paying job that he liked, so moving really wasn't an option. I applied for jobs all over the Denver area with no luck whatsoever. Perhaps if I had dyed my hair I might have had a better chance, but it didn't occur to me at the time. I had a few months' notice that I would be let go, so I paid off all our debt and figured out how we could exist solely on my husband's salary and we did okay -- until the company he worked for was purchased by a former competitor. (Is there a pattern there?) So we sold our house in Denver (got twice what we paid for it) and moved to Tennessee where the cost of living was less and I had some family.

Then the housing market crashed just before my mother died -- she was the family we had moved to be closer to, so now we had no reason to stay in Tennessee. But we couldn't sell our house -- no one was buying real estate. We finally sold early this year, at a loss, and moved to Wichita. It was where we both grew up and the real estate is much cheaper than Denver. But Kansas is in a recession due to the poor choices of the governor and state legislature, so no chance of even finding a part-time job here.

That's my sob story... In my next life I'm going to be fabulously rich even if I have to take up part-time bank robbery. If any of you want to join the gang, we'll need someone to drive the getaway car, someone to hold the gun, and someone with a great set of boobs to wear a transparent blouse so that all attention will be on her and they won't be able to describe any of our faces. Oh, yeah, we'll also need someone tall to spray-paint over the surveillance cameras... All ages considered.

I was a young nerd who had her first little bank savings book and the habit has stayed with me. I also knew early what I wanted to be/do. I still practice today; psychiatry. I'm fortunate to make my own schedule that gives me down time when I need it. I've no regrets with the exception of losing dear loved ones. I always had a "life" plan...see young nerd -:)I've been fortunate and blessed and am grateful for every day my feet hit the floor in the morning.

Not to step on your mea culpa, Ronni, but I seldom notice any typos in your posts and I bet most of us, who don't have mental auto-correct, just speed read right past them. I sympathize with your 3 p.m. downward spiral, but mostly because I am dealing with the exact opposite. I never was a morning person, and since my early retirement I have indulged myself in my natural circadian rhythm by not getting up until noon and then staying up until 3 or 4 a.m. watching old movies and writing emails about current politics, especially the good stuff about DT which we knew was there, but were glad to see revealed before the election.

I know I was lucky to have a pension plus SS because I have never been any good at all at investing and growing my money. Fortunately I spend very lightly so I have plenty to see me through until the end. I am even putting away money in Scolarshare accounts for my grandchildren and they will have whatever is left when I die. My children will only share a small insurance policy, but I hope they're happy knowing that their children will have the funds they need for college. You're doing great, Ronni, and we all depend on you to keep the flag flying about old age and its vicissitudes.

I forgot to say to Classof65 that I would love to be in your over-the-hill gang, not for the money but for revenge. The trouble is that I can't say I qualify for any of the jobs. I drive okay, but I get lost every time I venture outside my beaten path; I'm scared to death of guns; at 5'1" I don't think I could spray paint the cameras. That leaves only the big boobs and the transparent blouse. I admit to the big boobs, which I only acquired after I gained too much weight all over so I don't think the boobs would be enough on their own to make me the sexy distraction you need. But I'm game. Call me.

EmmaJay...
Almost every morning, I catch mistakes AFTER the post has been published. It's usually early enough that not many people see the errors. But if I don't catch them before the email version is sent at around 7:30AM Pacific time, everyone who reads that version can see them. Makes me crazy that I do this.

An answer to the questions of Mary and Elizabeth (above) and the curiosity--maybe--of others who post here. (Refer to my earlier post as "Curious One" if you're curious. . .

In the matter of deliberately ending your life by refusing food and drink, the doctor said it takes about 10 days and maybe a (very) few more. The body can do rather well, he said, without food, but it doesn't take long for the kidneys to begin to shut down if you refuse fluids, he also said. Apparently the body is fierce in its demand for fluids.

The doc said the first few days one would feel hunger and (definitely) thirst, but gradually after that one would get more and more fatigued and thereafter lapse into a coma.

To me, this sounds like a hard thing to do, but so far I'm still planning to do it nonetheless.
Would appreciate the thoughts of others here?? Thanks,

Curious One (Barbara)

Curious One, don't believe the doctor's story. My neighbour went through a starvation and dehydration death. I basically sat with her for over three weeks at the hospital in the so-called palliative care ward. You basically die of hypoxia, so your extremities go black. It was a brutal and horribly degrading way to go and she went over an entire week without any fluids. I also thought you wouldn't be able to go that long without liquid. After watching that death, I joined Dignitas and will checkout that way if I get anything debilitating. I would never trust the medical community on this continent.

Ronni,
Loved your candid comments
but feel incredibly lucky reading so many sad stories.
When it comes to money and it always comes down to money, "you either marry it or inherit it". Better yet, both. I married a great lady (6 years younger) who is willing to continue working full time and has a career that will allow it. I can only find part time employment. If we are lucky enough to stay healthy? We only made it to my 70 year old SS check by dipping into savings. As you know, all forms of media employment are a young person's game. 45-50 is the usual end, so you lasted longer than most. You would have to be extremely "lucky" to make it to 70. How many of your friends made it? Alot of show biz folks are trust fund kids considering today's cost of living.
Jak

I've heard pros and cons about VSED...mostly pros. I agree about Dignitas but it could be too late to fly over once your that ill and it's very expensive. The Dutch are going to try to pass a bill to be able to have assisted suicide if you feel you have completed your life and are ready to "go."
With all the controversy here in the US about assisted suicide and the lamenting about not enough money from the government to provide adequate health care for the growing elderly population, why in the world can't we have a more progressive policy to let us clear minded adults make our own choice in this matter regardless of reason. The Drs. and hospitals are afraid of lawsuits and the nursing homes and insurance companies make billions.

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