How Old is Old?
The Question of a Loneliness Epidemic

Elder Job Search: What Should Be Versus Reality

I have been banging on against ageism in general and age discrimination in the workplace for nearly 15 years on this blog without making even a minor dent. But neither has anyone else, even people with a much longer reach than I have.

So instead of living in a culture that accepts and welcomes elders into the the mainstream depending on their capabilities (like people of every younger age), old people (age 50 and even 40 in many cases) are dismissed, hidden, ignored and at best, patronized.

How wrong this is came to mind a couple of days ago when I read a story on the AARP website titled, Over 40? 7 Things Never To Say in a Job Interview.

You can probably guess they are all related to not revealing your age – as if the 20- to 30-something job interviewer can't tell that you look like their parent or grandparent. Some of the seven things you're not supposed to say, according to AARP:

“I’m ready for a change.”
“'It gives the impression that he was bored,” says an expert, that “'his experience was growing stale, and he was unmotivated. Otherwise, why would he stay in his field so long?'”

Really? I loved the field(s) I worked in and still had half a dozen jobs over 45 years I wanted out of for other reasons. This may not be the most politic thing to say in an interview but the objection to it itself is uninformed and stupid.

“I've got 25 years of experience.”
“What the interviewer hears is 'I'm so bogged down in what I believe I already know that I'll be difficult to work with,'” says Rosemary Hook, a recruiter in Austin, Texas. “You paint yourself as unfriendly to learning new things.”

Huh? Is the interviewer listening? What employer in his right mind wouldn't want someone with years of experience, who has solved expected and unexpected problems as they came up over the long term and learned on the job from dozens of people he or she has worked with.

Old people are hated so much in our culture that their experience and knowledge have been turned into a disadvantage.

“I see myself staying in this job until I retire.”
“While you might think such a statement demonstrates your commitment, avoid putting the r-word in their heads,” says another expert. “Employers rightfully want applicants with plenty to give, not someone looking to coast through the last few years of their career...”

How does “until I retire” translate into “someone looking to coast...”? Who thought that up? They're wrong. Or should be.

“Tell me a little about the benefits.”
“'Think of a job interview like running for the Presidency,'” says Hook. “'You must appear vibrant and healthy, able to bring energy to the job regardless of your gray hair.'”

How does asking about benefits make someone appear less vibrant? If it is apparent toward the end of the interview that you have not been rejected, you have a right to know the benefits – it's part of what any applicant needs to know to make a decision about taking a job.

These are among the many ways employers have of getting away with not hiring 40- and 50-somethings, and certainly not anyone older than that.

Make no mistake: eliminating a candidate for saying “I see myself in this job until I retire” is wrong but it is a fact of job search life if you're older than 35 or so.

And that is the dilemma: having a meaningful conversation about the job and what you could bring to it versus the grim reality of finding a job after a certain age, as reported in this AARP story, by demeaning oneself with carefully worded answers designed to offend no one and reveal nothing.

It shouldn't be like this. Old people should not be required to tie themselves in verbal knots to keep from appearing as old as they are. It's not like the interviewer cannot estimate a person's age by just looking.

As a long-time, close observer of the media and culture at large, it appears to me that the only people allowed to work in old age at what they are experienced and good at are rich white males who own the company: George Soros, Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffet come to mind - all currently in their mid-80s.

But not thee or me. I was forced out the workplace at age 63, years before I was eligible for full Social Security and more personally important, when I had a lot of knowledge and experience I was still eager to use.

And here's the most disheartening part. It's not going to change in the lifetimes of most of us who hang out at this blog. Which doesn't mean we shouldn't continue making noise about it.



Comments

I'm 73 and retired a few years ago. I knew I did not have enough money to really retire, but I thought I'd be able to get a part time administrative job to supplement my income. I left full time employment for two reasons. One, I loathed my manager and every day was misery and two, a colleague who was much younger just dropped dead in the office one day and I did not want to drop dead at work!

I have not been able to get a part time admin job. A LOT of interest and interviews, but no job and I certainly think that my age has something to do with this. Hindsight is 20-20 and knowing what I do now, I'd have tried to get a PT job BEFORE I left my previous job or just kept on working :(

Still working at 79. Using part of my expertise as a pathologist to do Mold inspections and the lab work. Got this job by having a friend offer it to me at age 63.

Yes that AARP article needs to be challenged, but so does the whole AARP magazine for the consistent emphasis in it for how to APPEAR young. As if that's the only worthwhile pursuit in life. I got so sick of the air-brushed Hollywood stars on the cover who had just turned 50, I finally stopped my membership. It seems the AARP perspective as a whole is that retired persons should be prepared to do anything to hide their age, and instead relentlessly pursue golf, 2nd jobs, and sex to prove they are still young. You will find very little about the realities of old age and poverty, loneliness, and lack of health care. Yes I understand that reality isn't glamorous. But AARP completely misses the dignity of living a real life and surviving real hardship.

.

Wow this is timely!
Both my husband (56) and I (53) decided to back to school after some lifestyle adjustments. My husband who has decided he wants to be an archaeologist, has recently discovered how hard it will be. He has applied for a plethora of jobs related to his field and has only ever had one interview. His professors readily admit he will find it hard due to his age, as even they (in their 30's, 40's & beyond) are not inclined to hirer people over 30. He is normally an upbeat man, but is finding this ageist brick wall a hard slog.
I'm currently writing an article on ageism, social isolation, and depression in older people (elderly now defined as over 50!) and the statistics are rather depressing.
Thanks so much for writing this. I have passed it along to my husband - if nothing else he will see that we are not alone.

I had a successful corporate career, earning most of my nest egg starting at age 50 -- with gray hair I refused to dye. My strategy was to embrace my age and rub their faces in it. They can smell fear.

Although I recently retired at age 62, it was my choice. There were still lots of opportunities for me, but I didn't want to live that way anymore. I'm writing and doing some consulting in my field, so I wouldn't call it a traditional retirement. I love it so far!

There are a few elders out there who get lucky. Take my friend, Jane. After a career in administrative office work at the local State u, she retired at 74. But they keep begging her to come back to fill in vacancies until the permanent employee could be hired. Jane loves to work, is hyper- efficient, healthy and knows the internal workings of the U. So she gets one or two gigs a year on her own terms, earns some nice travel money and is a poster girl for elder workers.

Then there's my son-in-law, 54, who had what he thought was a permanent job at a tax software company. He was an HR person, though, and aged out of fitting in with the younger management. They gave him a year's severance. He's been selling on amazon, helping in construction and will soon take on a 1/2 time Pastor's job -- none of which pays diddly. He's also writing a book (probably religious). Four of his 7 kids are still at home being home-schooled with college plans. I'm on a permanent worry trip over this situation.

Count your blessings, Ronni. I was dumped at age 55. Apparently 30 years of experience in editing and publishing just meant I was old.

I tend to chalk these and similar articles up to the need to fill magazine space with more blather than useful content. AARP must have done an awful lot of such articles over the lifetime of its magazine. Like Diane Davis, I have less than warm and fuzzy feelings about feelings about AARP these days. Having been a member for more than 15 years now, it seems to me that its mission is more of a pandering to the worried well who are 50 or older, primarily for insurance and trips, and I'm really not very interested in how wealthy celebrities are managing in their golden years. I let my membership lapse this past year and, to date, continue to ignore the requests for renewal. There must be a better resource for more down-to-earth information for the masses of those now 50 and older -- in addition, of course, to Time Goes By. Thanks, Ronni, for keeping it real!


This illustrates the dangerous practice of lumping all people into a stereotyped group. There are elders in their 80's and even a few in their 90's who are productive in their chosen profession and still working in it.

On the other end of the scale, there are incompetent and lacking in skills young people who are hired for their looks even though they are a disaster at their jobs.

Not only age, but physical appearance is an unfair factor.

A local retail store hires seniors to be clerks. Sounds good but they take advantage of these employees because they have few other job options. The weekly schedule comes out only a few days ahead of time. Work hours can be any time between 10 AM to 10 PM, or worse over Christmas and the hours can be cut during slack periods. All for a minimum wage job. Who else could or would put up with these working conditions?

I'm managing to coast pending the sale of real estate but if this doesn't sell, I will have to take employment. I am 74 and not in the best of health but needs must. I put out some feelers re a tax compliance service and have had some good feedback without an F2F meeting which will of course, reveal my age. Makes me nervous. A friend, same age as me, took a higher end retail job but being on her feet broke her body down. Very distressing for her as she now has to to the heat-food balancing act.

Us older single women do not have it easy in retirement. And those aging magazines are insulting. We aren't all Jane Fondas with fillers and botox and lifts.

XO
WWW

I never post but this hits so close to home I felt I must. When I was in my mid-50s I was seeking a change from the company where I had worked for 20+ years. I applied to a local Google-type company, staffed with lots of young hipster types. They read my resume and called to say they felt I would be perfect for the job but they needed to "clarify some dates". This left me in a quandary: should I advise them that I could sue them for asking that question? The fact that I was aware of this potential pitfall they were exposing themselves to would make me an even more valuable employee (but let's be real - it would also take me out of the running). Or I could, in fact, sue them if I were not interviewed and/or offered the job. In the end, I decided that neither was worth it and I simply provided the dates that confirmed that, yes, I was older than they. I never heard from them again. I am convinced that they felt I wouldn't have the energy to keep up with a startup. Funny, because at the time I was working 50-60 hours per week at a very busy investment firm and continued to work similar hours when I did find another position. That continued until my retirement a year ago at 66. I would not hesitate to compare my stamina against anyone they had working the firm. But they will never know that because of their prejudice against someone outside their own age.

Once again Darlene nails it.

Ronni, your blog is the real deal of aging.

If I want fantasy, I'll read little bo peep. Who cares where her sheep are? What are we? Sheep herders? (Respect to real sheep herders.)

I worked 41 years, including office, teaching and university.

Retired to travel, write, volunteer.

I wanted to own the rest of my life. We never know how long we might have on this earth.

Retired teachers can tutor for $ but I enjoy busing tables/learning valuable life lessons at the ILR.

---

*There are plenty of older (paid) country singers here in South Padre Island, Texas. Most restaurants have a small stage for singers.

Friendliest place we've been in all our travels.

Country music sure can pierce hearts.*

In a nice way.


Hmmm, I just wrote a check to renew my AARP membership--for one year. I thought I might want to see what they'll do to defend against The Orange Apparition and his Rethug sycophants' coming attacks on Social Security and Medicare. Now I'm not so sure and may shred the check since I basically agree that AARP no longer represents people like me. Jane Fonda and I are close to the same age but, trust me, the similarity ends there. She looks great, but most 80 Y/O women in real life don't look like her, especially the overwhelming majority of us who don't have Big Buck$.

I've been involuntarily retired for 3 years; I could still work P/T and would like to but realize it's hopeless especially in Tech Mecca USA (in and near Seattle WA), now the 6th highest-cost place to live in the USA, where you're old at 35.

I know what you say to be true as my husband learned first hand in the sixties when he reached forty, changed careers after finally completing a prevuiously delayed Univ. business degree. Corporate business practices were very rigid. One Personnel Director (called Human Resources now, I think) for a major national corporation was honest in a way others with whom he interviewed weren’t — and in recent years would definitely not be for fear of lawsuits — but what he confided to my husband was,
“I would hire you in a minute, but if I forward your resume’ to the next level it will be categorically rejected. They want only younger people they think they have a better chance of moulding to company mores and values — older people are more fixed in their ways.”
Also, that PD indicated his even forwarding the resume’, knowing he was expected to cull it out, would reflect poorly on his meeting his superiors expectations for how he was to perform.

My husband did ultimately receive multiple management job offers but in quite a different professional arena. Those were difficult times — many months, many resumes’ with letters, confidence shattering experiences while simultaneously I was being subjected to sexual harassment at work that I could sue for today. I didn’t alarm my husband with my reports and over time was able to resolve the matter myself with some degree of higher management quasi-actions.

As for my young self, working in the television world at that time, it was very obvious to me that youth was valued in women — along with other attributes, behaviors, and characteristics — (even in those of us working behind the scenes) — youth over age and experience, especially once you reached forty. So, when I returned to the workforce after we moved across country and I took off a few years to start our family, I chose to make no effort to seek work in broadcasring, though we were now living in a major entertainment area near Los Angeles, Calif. I didn’t want to play all the games in this market of youth and beauty, much less fly on the freeways commuting to work. I stayed in communications, but I trained to work in other areas.

There was and still is a shortage of people in my chosen rehabilitation field — age and experience is valued which enabled me to work into my late seventies part time as I chose and could continue now if I kept up continuing education requirements. This year, I am finally taking Retired lifetime Membership status in our certifying organization and did not renew my State professional license. Working within the ever-changing, less than ideal confines of our medical heath system has made providing quality services increasingly challenging. I consider myself fortunate to have been attracted to that profession and able to gain the needed training though I did require loans to do so.

I realize there are many people unable for many reasons to follow a path similar to the one I took. Given that my work has been with the older population I am acutely aware of how capable so many are, even in spite of some medical changes experienced with aging. Their value to continue the work they did or new undertakings should not be discounted simply because of their age, I would be among the first to say.

I too retired at age 62. But, unlike Donna, it was not by choice.
The company that I had been working for decided to relocate out of state. They did this knowing full well that their older (and higher paid) associates would not follow to such an out-of-the-way location.
And, to add insult to injury, they had the nerve to ask us to go to the new location (in another state) and train the new, younger employees.
I was never able to find any meaningful employment after I was laid off.

I hear you, Roni. Same thing here in Israel, and I expect pretty much world-wide. My husband was let go from his high-tech company in 2008, with the Big Bang. After trying to find another job, when 50+ people couldn’t get one, he turned to volunteering. Three years ago he started studying law. Now it’s the finding an internship slot period, which as you can imagine is Not Easy. Yesterday I shared this message on Facebook, and also sent it to the Minister for Gender-Equality / Social Equality, and the Justice Minister (whose political views I abhor, but worth a try):

“At a time of life when many decide to take it easy (or learn how to make marzipan), my partner went to law school. Currently he’s finishing the first semester of his third year, it’s now the time to find a place to do his internship. Objectively, it's true that he's a bit older than his fellow students and his employment horizon isn’t 50 years, quite a lot less than that. Yet we both thought (innocently?) that his MBA, years of management experience in high-tech companies, and near-perfect English, would give him considerable advantages for his employer. So far, though, he’s received a very few responses from companies in the private and public sectors, and the only reason I believe is ageism. That’s a tough one to get around, so if anyone has an idea – would love to hear it.”

I had a very successful career until the depression of 2008. I was laid off and at the age of 46 I kind of knew I was screwed. I went back to school and became a paralegal. I got one interview - I am now working as a pharmacy technician for 50k less, lost my house when I was hospitalized for pneumonia after working 2 minimum wage jobs 70 hours a week and no health insurance. I about to relocate again and I am terrified that I won’t be able to find a job. I know I will never be able to retire and it is depressing...

This is so true. Here at TheRadicalAgeMovement we are encouraging everyone to keep their voices loud as we advocate for Age Justice in the Workforce. Thank you for all your wisdom over the years and for being right on point today.

The above comments are all true. There is so much age discrimination out there. I retired at age 64 as my position was being outsourced. Although I worked for this company nearly 30 years, emotionally I was not ready to go. After all, I worked for 45 yrs! Tried getting a decent flexible PT job to use my skills, but is impossible! It seems the preference is for young mothers and college students. What is available is entry level work at minimum wage and terrible hours! Too bad, we have so much to offer!

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