Ageism

I met a man today. I was strolling around my garden with Mogi, and my first coffee of the day, when he came to read my gas meter.

On the way out, the Gas Man made a smiling comment about Mogi, my pint-sized chihuahua cross, and we got to talking about dogs:

Be sure to get my good side

A lot of conversations start with dogs in Warrandyte. The Gas Man has two Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

One thing led to another, and I soon discovered that the Gas Man spends most of his working life walking the hills of Warrandyte, checking meters. I’ve walked some of those hills, and they are bloody steep.

I must have looked utterly horrified, because the Gas Man quickly explained that there were very few places where he could [safely] park his car, so in between parking spots he had to walk. On really hot days he’s ‘allowed’ to start at six am so he can finish by about 1pm.

I looked at the Gas Man and saw someone in his mid fifties, with a weathered face and a bit of a paunch. He was cheerful and well-spoken, but he looked older than me, and I’m 66.

“You haven’t considered a career change?” I asked.

The answer shocked me. No, he hadn’t considered getting another job because he knew that if he left this one, he’d never work again. Ageism.

The Gas Man is doing the kind of job men twenty years younger would hate. What’s worse, he’s going to have to keep walking the hills of Warrandyte until his body fails, or the company decides he’s not efficient enough any more. I can guess what happens after that because it happened to me too. You apply for NewStart to ‘tide you over’, but no one wants to employ you, so you scrape along until you finally qualify for the pension.

Why does no one want to employ you?

I’ve thought about this a lot. I imagine that in physical type jobs, older workers are seen as less ‘strong’, or perhaps even as a liability – e.g. what happens if they have a heart attack on the job? Given how many physical type jobs are already automated, why employ an older person when there are hundreds of younger ones available?

White collar workers are in a slightly different boat. We may have experience and skills, but will we be able to learn the new technology? More importantly, will we expect to be paid commensurate with our skills and experience? And what happens if we get sick? The statistics show that older people fall prey to all sorts of debilitating illnesses. Better to hire someone with lower dollar expectations and a longer [working] life expectancy.

And then there’s the perception that older workers will retire soon so why bother training them up?

I’m not saying that I have had personal experience of these scenarios. I haven’t. Most of my experience is of silence. You send off your CV and nothing comes back. You ring up a few places to inquire if they received your CV, and there’s a kind of embarrassed ‘oh, we’ve got you on file’. That translates to, ‘yes, we probably got it and binned it straight away’. I have very good qualifications, but the earliest ones date back to the 1970’s. You can’t hide that.

No one admits to ageism because it’s ‘illegal’ to discriminate against someone based on age, but it does happen. More importantly, the bar to employment is getting lower all the time. I shudder to think what will happen when the workers of the ‘gig’ economy become too old to maintain that frenetic pace. Age may be ‘just a number’, but it’s a very important number.

When the Gas Man went on his way, I finished my coffee and dragged out the lawn mower. If he can walk up and down our hills, rain or shine, five days a week, I can do a bit more mowing, even if I my bones do creak a bit. Motivation can come from unexpected sources.

Have a great day, my friends,

-hugs-

Meeks

 

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

32 responses to “Ageism

  • Widdershins

    Which is why so many of us are self-employed. No choice.

    Like

  • daleleelife101.blog

    Over the past few days I listened to several different reports on ABC local radio, one was about the government’s drive to get everyone working into their 70’s because the budget apparently can’t afford them not to. Another was about the automation of jobs where human jobs will be replaced by technological non-human innovations and its impact of the availability of paid work. What perplexes me is the government makes these pronouncements but doesn’t follow through with how these jobs for older workers will be practically accomplished. Then this… someone from the Grattan Institute suggesting that superannuation -made compulsory by the government so people could have a reasonable retirement without creating fiscal pressure on taxpayers- will eventually become taxable to fund the burden placed upon the country by its aging population. Arrrrgggggh.

    Like

    • acflory

      Yeah, it’s a bit like that, isn’t it? Was watching The Drum the other day and an economist said that with all the superannuation tax breaks, franking credits etc etc, it’d actually be cheaper for the govt to just give everyone the pension. No idea how he worked that out, but for most people, super doesn’t seem to be the safety net it was designed to be.

      Like

  • Candy Korman

    I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but in the U.S. there are many fields where youth is always preferred. This includes advertising. When I was in my mid-30s I was “aging out” of any chance at a job in a big agency. I found another path. They say it’s because older people aren’t current on styles, trends, technologies, etc. I’m sure that, to a small extent, that’s true, but it’s also true that a lifetime of experience adds nuance to writing, provides clever connections to a wider base of knowledge, and, dare I say it, adds the wisdom to know what’s really important. This is all without touching the BIG thing that comes with age—experience dealing with other people.

    Like

  • flawedman

    I think what is often called ageism is really capitalism at work ; when you select you select the the best for the business your running, and often old people are less selectable. In our rich western nations isms have sprung up everywhere they are a means of putting your case forwards for preferential treatment. One of the most successful is feminism it has put women on the map.

    Like

    • acflory

      -blinks- preferential treatment? What’s preferential about living in the 21st century and still being treated as a second class citizen?
      As for selecting the ‘best for the business you’re running’, I worked in corporate long enough to know just how often that happened. True merit has very little to do with it, and that’s not just sour grapes on my part.

      Liked by 2 people

      • flawedman

        Cronyism ( there’s another ism) is widespread in some areas of business , let’s keep things in the family way and true merit is not always the road to success financially. You have more chance in UK if you went to Eton rather than some less well known university. I’m not suggesting it’s sour grapes but it’s the way of the world.
        ‘And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?’

        Like

        • acflory

          We don’t have any Etons in Australia, but we do have a certain elitism…there ya go, another one. In the corporate world, the mostly male execs tend to select others within their own network of ‘mates’. How you define the network is kind of irrelevant. What matters is that those within are ‘us’; those on the outside are ‘them’. And bugger merit.

          Liked by 1 person

  • the pretty poems

    what a pleasant story about the Gas Man and the lesson it brought

    Liked by 1 person

  • Yvonne Hertzberger

    Yes, it’s a sad commentary on modern society. We will willingly do the work many younger ones turn up their nose at – and do it well and reliably. Yet we are regarded as useless and ignored. Even the medical system tends to shunt older people off with less treatment., They’d never admit it but I’ve seen it too many times.

    Like

    • acflory

      Yes! And at the same time, we’re blamed for escalating ‘costs’ while corporations get away with, ahem, minimising their taxes via the Cayman Islands.

      Liked by 1 person

      • flawedman

        Everyone tries to minimise their tax bills many self employed do it using accountants who know the ropes .
        In all countries we have a wealth pyramid and we all try to climb it it’s human nature at work. What amuses me is capitalism is alive and well in China.

        Like

        • acflory

          It /is/ human nature, or at least a part of it. When I returned to Hungary to visit relatives in the 70’s, the country seemed to have the very worst aspects of capitalism – greed, cheating, backstabbing.
          I assume China is no different. :/

          Liked by 1 person

  • Neil Rickert

    We already have people running for election in the USA. The election is not until November 2020. And yes, these long campaign seasons are absurd.

    So I look at the candidates. And I decide that several of them are too old.

    So I guess I am guilty of ageism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      lol – your presidential elections are very different to ours, but I have to disagree with you on the ageism thing. Do you really think those politicians are too ‘old’, or are you really saying that you think they, and their policies, are mired in the past.
      Some older people can be very forward thinking, and some younger ones can be absolute stick-in-the-muds.
      I guess the flip-side of ageism is the assumption that age confers wisdom. It doesn’t.

      Like

      • Neil Rickert

        In part it is a concern about age. From my own experience, we are become energetic as we get past 70 year old.

        And partly, it is a concern that a younger generation needs to have their outlook and viewpoint better represented in government.

        Like

        • acflory

          Earlier this year I had the great good fortune to teach computer skills to a group of retirees, all over 70 and one at 92. Seeing how well they were doing gave me a lot of hope for my own old age.
          That said, I do kind of agree about the younger generation[s]. Our politicians are so busy playing power games amongst themselves, they’re oblivious to the very real existential threats that face young people. I believe we need fresh blood and fresh perspectives for the future.

          Liked by 1 person

    • flawedman

      Well footballers have to stop when they get to about forty and in the world of sport age is very significant . In the UK they generally give the old ones a seat in the House of Lords , well earned! rest.

      Like

      • acflory

        Ick. In Australia, they just become sporting commentators. The thing is, if you’re physically incapable of doing something, then of course you should stop, at any age. Frankly if you were a brain surgeon and your hands shook, I don’t think I’d want you operating on my grey matter!
        Ageism, however, is different. It is the general assumption that all people of a certain age are incapable, whether they are or they’re aren’t.

        Liked by 1 person

        • flawedman

          The thing with capitalism is it works on a statistical basis while it is true that some sixty year olds can run a marathon most can’t. It a bit like car insurance women are in general better drivers than men so get lower premiums , but it may not be so in individual cases.
          So your age on the CV is a statistic but of course we take it personally. Discrimination can never be eliminated we do it when we chose a cake to eat. Natural Selection discriminates against the weak in survival of the fittest.
          The other personal feeling many express is that they don’t get what they deserved out of their lives , but this applies across the board , from rich to poor.

          Like

          • acflory

            You’re right about the stats, but we’re not talking about cake, or even natural selection. If we were, young men would not be allowed to drive until they’re 30, and we’d avoid wars by breeding out the aggression that no longer has a use in human society.
            The reality is that we don’t act on the statistics except when it comes a few things, and age is one of them.
            Let me throw out a radical idea. What if ageism isn’t based on rational decisions at all? What if it’s based on a fear of ageing that makes us hide the early signs and put the elderly in enclaves where they won’t remind us of our own mortality?

            Liked by 1 person

          • flawedman

            Wow brilliant idea I’m sure a fear of aging and death is widespread, and we certainly aren’t always rational.

            Like

          • acflory

            The concept of the ‘wise elder’ has given way to the cult of the young. I’ve never believed that age necessarily confers wisdom, but idolising the physical properties of youth is a wee bit too shallow for my liking. :/

            Liked by 1 person

  • cagedunn

    When I first became one of the ‘out of work’ oldies, I wondered why I wasn’t getting any responses, so I took a few years off my resume. What happened? I got several interviews in one week. However, all of them (including one university) looked at me, then the resume, then shook their heads. The person at the uni had the audacity to say it: we were expecting someone younger.
    Whether it’s illegal or not to discriminate on the basis of age, it happens everywhere, all the time.
    I turned to delivering pamphlets to three different ‘zones’. A lot of hard work, and it kept me fit until a slight slip and slide in muddy conditions did a bit of injury, and then a bit of arthritis, and then … well, here I am: a full-time, unemployed writer – loving it, even if the cupboard is a bit bare at times.
    I’m not on any of the Gov streams, but looking forward to my pension – unless – once again – the age gets put up to some ridiculous number, or some ridiculous polly states that the pension is a privilege, not a right, and we may not get it at all (Looking at you, ScoMo, who will live on taxpayer-funded income most of us can only dream of – but will you give it up because you work for the good of the people?).
    Sorry, annoys me – both the ageism and the stupidity of pollies who can’t see reality.

    Liked by 1 person

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