Ageism is stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. This may be casual or systematic. The term was coined in 1969 by Robert Neil Butler to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism.
Discrimination doesn’t follow a set pattern or rule when it takes place. Like all other negative differentiating factors, ageism sets people apart from a crowd because of the certain age group they belong to.
Age groups can be quite wide (for example, ‘people under 50’ or ‘under 18s’). They can also be quite specific (for example, ‘people in their mid-40s’). Terms such as ‘young person’ and ‘youthful’ or ‘elderly’ and ‘pensioner’ can also indicate an age group.
So getting right into the subject, let’s focus on the four types of discrimination that take place around us literally every day.
Age discrimination can range from subtle prejudices to blatant mistreatment. Older workers are subject to preconceived notions and stereotypical beliefs that can brand them unfairly. In some cases these biases are so strong that people of a certain age are not even considered for employment. The seriousness of ageism is sometimes overlooked, but its many forms are real and should not be ignored.
Applicants of a certain age may have trouble getting the job in the first place. Many times employers use resume and other information to determine the age of every applicant. For example, if your college graduation date was before 1980, it is obvious that you are over 50 years of age. If the employer is looking for someone younger, you will never even get a call back. This type of age discrimination is more subtle than others, but it has a tremendous impact on the chances that older workers have in the job market.
Harassment based on age is a more openly displayed focus on the negative aspects of age. For example, if you are made to feel uncomfortable at work or it seems as though your coworkers are all set against you due to your age, your treatment may qualify as a form of harassment. Harassment can come from coworkers, bosses and even clients, and all of it is illegal. Harassment can reach another level if you are unfairly fired, demoted or kept from moving up in your position because of your age with no additional factors considered.
Age-based stereotypes include the idea that older workers are not tech savvy, can’t keep up with their younger counterparts or are too set in their ways to be adaptable in today’s fast-moving business climate. Younger bosses may feel an older employee makes for awkward situations and the amount of time between now and your retirement can make it seem like you are riding things out to make the finish line. Each of these perceptions is based in discrimination and each becomes illegal if your benefits, training and promotion opportunities, and access to projects or salary is negatively affected because of them.
The prevalence of age discrimination in the workplace can be surprising. According to AARP, 64 percent of workers age 45 to 75 have been discriminated against or have witnessed someone else being discriminated against based on age. On the other hand, three-quarters of all workers in the same age bracket feel they are treated equally by their bosses, with seven percent even saying they get better treatment than their younger coworkers. The perception of age discrimination among workers in different age brackets may be the most interesting statistic, however, with 54 percent of those age 60 to 74 saying it is very common, versus 45 percent of workers age 45 to 59.
To sum it up, discrimination is division be it on the basis of age, race, ethnicity or sexual preferences.
With time we are supposed to break the backward ideologies where everything becomes a matter of ‘whether our forefathers did so or not.’ Old people have richer experience and wisdom that make them an even more important part of the society let alone a ‘burden.’ Similarly, on the other hand, youth is full of energy and zest and can serve for jobs that slightly older people won’t be able to carry out which makes them an integral part of the society as well.
All ages go together like Lego blocks of different sizes. Sure some might be more useful than others and sometimes you rely on one piece more than the others but that doesn’t mean you can complete the model with even one of them missing. Society is not supposed to be made of a single type of age or race, all differences complement each other to create a greater, better society.