As Daniel Gross points out in a commentary in this week’s issue of Newsweek:
“…in the corporate world, 80 is the new 50. The exploits of these Sunshine Boys and advances in medicine make the retirement age of 65 seem like a relic.
Mr. Gross sketches the ongoing accomplishments of several aged corporate chiefs: Sumner Redstone (85), Rupert Murdoch (77), Carl Icahn (72), T. Boone Pickens (80), George Soros (77), Kirk Kirkorian (91), and notes that a big benefit of keeping these people in power over such younger folks as the Wall Street managers who have recently led their banks and financial institutions into bankruptcy, is that they
“…have experience managing through the last serious oil shock and prolonged period of financial pain in the 1970s.”
But as Gross also points out, working into one’s 70s, 80s and beyond is reserved for executive suite denizens - as though low- and mid-level workers have not also learned from their years on the job:
“…for non-rock stars – i.e., people who don’t own their own companies or don’t have enough cash to start a hedge fund – barriers to staying active late in life remain. ‘There is still enormous resistance and unwillingness to consider older people for job hires,’ says AgeWave’s [Ken] Dychtwald. As one executive recruiter told me, boards frequently look askance at older candidates because ‘somebody in their mid-60s isn’t going to take an 18-hour-a-day job.’”
Nor should an employee of any age. People fought hard in the early 20th century for the 40-hour work week, and 90 hours a week is both exploitive and inhuman, leaving no time for rest or family. On the other hand, what these ageist recruiters are missing is that older employees who are willing to work long days no longer have young children at home who require and need their presence.
Although there is some indication that a few employers are beginning to see the light in terms of the need to retain older workers because the generation coming up behind the boomers totals only 54 million compared to the boomer 78 million, little progress is being made.
“For leadership guru Warren Bennis, who at 83 teaches full time at the University of Southern California’s business school, such ambivalence is a key issue facing the economy,” writes Gross. “‘Organizations have to learn how to manage the people who keep growing and learning even as they get older,’ he says. Bennis still detects plenty of signs of ageism in corporate America.”
Perhaps such as this one: if you’re an older IT worker and think you might qualify for a job at Facebook, think again. The choices in the field for graduation date go back only to 1980, ignoring everyone older than 50.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Rabon Saip begins a two-part story of long-ago friendship in Just the Three of Us – Part 1.]