Old and Tired
Power to the People

More Age Discrimination

category_bug_ageism.gif If you don’t know by now that the population of the world is aging, that the proportion of old people is increasing, you haven’t been paying attention. This phenomenon raises important social and economic issues that most governments and most employers have yet to adequately address, so it's encouraging when mainstream media does.

In its 18 February issue, The Economist, to its credit, placed the issue of an aging workforce front and center on its cover:

Economist2_1

My local newsstand has no more copies of this issue and it is a premium story online, so I have no idea what the magazine says about managing older workers - it may be an excellent piece, but you wouldn’t know that from the cover image.

It was brought to my attention by dus7, who blogs at Come Speak To Me, with a link to a bit of commentary at Bag News Notes, but it deserves more. The image is ageist to its core.

No one would confuse that frightened-looking old man slumped in what appears to be a lawn chair with an experienced and competent employee. The eye-chart-style headline diminishing into an almost unreadable final word suggests poor eyesight. And the words themselves suggest that older workers, by virtue of their age alone, present a difficulty to managers and certainly are not manager material themselves.

Everything about this cover is offensive. If you think not, picture it with a black man (young or old doesn't matter) in place of this old man, and change the eyechart headline to "How to Manage a Black Workforce." You would never see such a cover image because editors would never consider creating it. But they create prejudicial images and stories about elders every day without a second thought, and with no outcry from the public or other media.

Ageism is the last acceptable bigotry. It has has been much discussed at Time Goes By in the past and will continue to be. Its stupidity in the face of increased longevity and growing numbers of healthy elders, while the numbers of younger workers shrinks, is monumental. Yet, it is images like this one on the cover of an internationally respected publication, read by the leaders of corporations who hire millions, that support the unchecked continuation of age discrimination in the workplace and everywhere else.

Comments

Older employees will become even more importsnt with the passage of time. I just hope that the powers that be in Americasn business view them (us) as a tremendous asset that must be tapped.

*snarl*

Well don't that just fry my bacon? As a woman who hires people, please trust me when I say you want the older worker. I have a few younguns who are part of the backbone of the facility. But the older ones are the heart and soul. They come to work. They don't lie to me. They understand the concept of a day's work for a day's pay. And if the younguns are smart enough to listen, they teach them a great deal.

I think I need to go write my own entry on this subject.

Think of they'd used this photo of 78-year-old Harry Whittington instead.

He's rich, successful, and working--politically, physically, and mentally active--and not likely to need managing.

Phooey on anyone who thinks that any person is a thing to be managed. One manages projects...one leads people! There have been some rather thoughtful articles on the aging of our work force--including, if memory serves me well, a recent section in The Wall Street Journal. The cited headline/layout is an unfortunate choice by The Economist.

That picture on the cover of "The Economist" says it all. The media has such a lopsided view of elders. The subject's hair is uncombed denoting either senility or carelessness about appearance. He sits there as others have pointed out, in something resembling a patio chair, denoting inactivity. His hands are idle. . He has a "where am I " look on his face. You can almost see his left hand shaking with palsey.
I wish we could locate a copy of that "Economist" article to see how they play this.
And you are right Ronni, the media does not dare portray any other "minority group" as they do elders. Wasted, washed up, a bother, taking up too much room and precious resourses better saved for the "youngsters" soon approaching elderhood.

Would certainly be more realistic to portray us older individuals as having a bit more vim and vigor than what the photo suggests that person has. Maybe some readers/subscribers will call the editors to account.

Perhaps we can send an email with our comments about the cover. The Economist reserves the right to publish emailed as well as other letters they receive.

letters@economist.com

As an unemployed elder, that cover typifies mindset that makes my search for adequate employment such a struggle. This cover is a slap in the face to all of us who are aging.

Interesting site and comments! This is my first time viewing TimeGoesBy and I found it while doing research on ageism for one of my grad classes. I am a dental hygienist with 20 years of experience and I would rather have a 95 year old patient any day over a youngster!! I am always the hygienist in the office who embraces the elderly patients and truly enjoys finding out about their lives. No matter what the physical limitation may be, I treat them as I would want my parents to be treated. Considering the population of people age 65 and over is growing quickly, the need for preparing dental/dental hygiene students in working with the elderly is huge. This is what my research paper is all about. Thanks!
I look forward to checking your site out on a regular basis.

Lisa J, I'm glad you're going to be looking in on our dialogue. I enjoy talking with my dental hygienists as long as they remember to ask me only yes and no questions once they have my mouth filled with their tools! :-)

Expect you know that dental issues can be a problem significantly impacting the consistency of foods people are able to eat...at any age. No molars - may not chew food well enough to be safe. Loose dentures - may not eat enough. Lots more issues and potential problems.

As for me, still have my own teeth except for 2 false ones, plus the only 2 wisdom teeth that came in. One false tooth replaced a tooth pulled by a dentist when I was a pre-teen - I remember the event well; a scene straight out of a comic mad horror movie. Found out later he had to be institutionalized, had been pulling out people's teeth needlessly. The need for the other false tooth was the consequence of a period in my life when I had been unable to have good regular dental care.

So, the work you are doing is very important to the quality of life we all want to enjoy. Good dental care should be available to everybody.

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