Lip service is paid to the wisdom acquired by old people but hardly anyone is interested in making use of it.
Workers as young as 40-something are regularly laid off in favor of recent college graduates and those numbers increase dramatically for employees in their 50s and 60s. Most never again work in their fields or for a comparable salary.
Even if wisdom does not arrive automatically with age (stupid young invariably grows into stupid old), the experience gained by millions of others in lifetimes of work is universally ignored. When you have left the workforce in the United States, it is assumed you are of no further use to society.
What a waste. As Oregon State University researcher, Michelle Barnhart, noted in a 2012 study:
“Our society devalues old age in many ways, and this is particularly true in the United States, where individualism, self-reliance, and independence are highly valued...Almost every stereotype we associate with being elderly is something negative, from being ‘crotchety’ and unwilling to change to being forgetful.”
There are some organizations such as Senior Corps and Encore, among a few others, that place elders in worthwhile volunteer positions that make use of their expertise, and elders themselves do a lot of local area volunteering.
In general, however, no value is placed on unpaid jobs and once out of the workplace, American society has no interest in old people.
Oh, wait. That's true unless you count members of Congress who make a career out of trying to sneak cuts to Social Security and Medicare into every possible bill where they think they might get away with it, requiring old people to waste large amounts of time counteracting those efforts.
In the United States, there is no public policy at any level that would value, respect, organize and put to use the experience old people have gained in their decades of work.
But what if there were? What if there were a place in society for elders who are capable and willing to continue participating?
What if young and mid-life workers automatically looked to elders for advice, help, assistance, guidance and suggestions whether for business, education, government, childcare, healthcare, technology and everything else that requires attention in modern life?
What if old people were not, as now, expected to forget everything they've learned in 20, 30, 40 years of working?
What if, instead, we were expected to share our knowledge to help, for example, balance the best of the past with the newest developments of modern life? And to help solve society's problems?
What if this is how society worked? How do you think our world would be different?
Give a whirl today and play around with the idea. Let your imaginations run wild on this question: In the best of circumstances, what would be the place of elders in society? Be as specific as you can.