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:
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.
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.