Although ageism in the workplace is often not talked about, it affects many older adults in the job market. The negative impacts of ageism affect us all, so it is important to know about age discrimination, what it does to our communities, and what is being done to fight against it.
What is ageism?
Ageism, or age discrimination, is prejudice on the basis of someone’s age. Ageism in the workplace can come in many different forms.
For example, someone might experience age discrimination when an employer refuses to hire them because of their age. Or, an older employee might be fired or treated differently than their co-workers because of their age.
Consequences of age discrimination in the workforce
Ageism in the workplace has a serious impact on the working environments of businesses large and small. Here are just a few ways myths about older workers affect businesses and individuals.
Businesses miss out on experience
It’s no secret – with age comes experience. A younger worker lacks the extensive background of first-hand knowledge that an older worker has gained over time. Employers who do not provide opportunities for older workers lose valuable experience.
Older workers tend to be more mature and confident in their abilities than their younger counterparts. This mindset is crucial for getting things done correctly and efficiently. It also helps a business maintain a reputation of integrity and industry expertise.
Ageism in the workplace increases the challenges for a business that is trying to grow. Older workers often act as mentors for younger employees, teaching them the ins and outs of the position. When this occurs, employers are able to spend less time micromanaging their team and more time on tasks that grow a business. At the same time, younger employees gain the skills they need to succeed and advance within a company.
Businesses lose workers
People want to work in an environment that is welcoming. Age discrimination creates a negative working environment.
While some workers might not be directly affected by ageism, age discrimination causes distrust within a company. Younger employees will start to wonder if they will be the next target or simply will not want to work for a discriminatory business.
If a business promotes ageism the workplace, they are likely to see a loss in productivity and an increase in turnovers. Low morale and an inability to maintain a consistent workforce give a business little chance for long-term success.
Businesses have legal liabilities
Age discrimination against potential and current employees is against federal law. Many states have also initiated their own laws against ageism in the workplace.
Businesses are not allowed to make employment decisions based on age. By doing so, they might face legal liability. Employees can sue a business for age discrimination, often resulting in large fines and a damaged business reputation.
Older workers experience mental health issues
Age discrimination takes a toll on those who want to remain in the workforce later in life. Research proves that experiencing ageism in the workplace can play a role in declined mental health.
In one study, researchers looked at the role of work-related age discrimination on women’s health over the life course. It evaluated whether perceived age discrimination at work influences women’s depressive symptoms and life satisfaction.
The results of the study showed that women who experienced ageism in the workplace had greater overall depressive symptoms. This is because ageism affects financial strain, which, in turn, increases depressive symptoms.
The takeaway – ageism negatively impacts the mental health of our older populations. When it is hard to find a job or get promoted because of your age, individuals face barriers to financial independence that can lead to depression and other mental health issues.
Communities are not prepared for future needs
Across the county, our aging populations are rapidly growing. By 2035, there will be more people 65 years and older than people under the age of 18 (78 million compared to 76.4 million).
We need to be ready for an increased aging population. This includes shifting the way we look at aging. If we continue to look at age as a negative quality, our workforce will face some major issues in the near future.
Aging can be an empowering and positive experience that benefits all members of our communities. By eliminating age as a determinate of ability and success, we open the door to new opportunities for our workforce now and in the future.
What we are doing to fight ageism in the workplace
VANTAGE Aging offers wraparound services to promote positive aging and independent living in older adults. Our Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) serves 38 Ohio counties with the aim to help older adults succeed in today’s workforce.
Through VANTAGE Workforce Solutions, SCSEP provides paid, on-the-job training at nonprofit and government agencies to low-income individuals who are 55 and older. While in the program, participants also receive individual employment plans and assistance with their resumes, job searches, and interview skills.
Currently, participants in the SCSEP program are completing training at home due to COVID-19. Earn industry-recognized certifications and learn ways to market yourself to employers.
Are you 55 or older and interested in re-entering the workforce? Apply now for the Senior Community Service Employment Program to get started with paid training to reach your career goals.
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