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Monday, August 8, 2016

“Scumbag Baby Boomer”... Really?

Ageism. Somehow I missed that “discrimination” category. I must have been napping.

Type the word in Google and up pops the definition: prejudice or discrimination on the basis of a person's age. Why ageism even has its own Wikipedia entry! And my, what I learned there!

A small sampling: “Ageism in common parlance and age studies usually refers to negative discriminatory practices against old people, people in their middle years, teenagers, and children. There are several forms of age-related bias: Adultism…Jeunism…Adultocracy being just a few.

I was drawn to look into this when seeing the Washington Post story, “Baby Boomers are Taking on Ageism — and Losing”.

My blog this week is a follow up to my last post on older folks who can’t find jobs even though they want to work. The WaPo story features a Chicagoan named Dale Kleber who left his job as a Chief Executive at a dairy trade organization. As a skilled attorney, he thought he would have NO trouble finding work. He was wrong.

One company to which he applied posted in their ad that a candidate should have a “maximum of seven years legal experience.” Dale applied — even though his experience was well beyond seven years. He was passed over. He’s filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. Dale claims, “They expressed concerns with an older person being less likely to take supervision from someone that’s younger than they are.” Probably not a good thing to say.

What the graying citizens are finding is a predisposition to youthful “energy” and “innovation” found in younger workers. Some of that can be understood. Depending on the products or services being marketed, a certain kind of connectivity in relating to customers might prove most effective.

But it was quite a surprise to me to know that there are internet memes being circulated such as “Scumbag Baby Boomer” and “Old Economy Steve.” Several of these “lambast boomers for transgressions from failing to adopt technology to causing the wars and recessions that millennials have weathered.” And as the Post adds, this channels “resentment against an entire category of people in ways that might not be tolerated if they were members of another protected class.”

It’s noted that ageism is not a modern phenomenon. Globally, other cultures have seen this for centuries where youth is prized over wisdom. One study from 2013 revealed East Asian countries’ attitudes were worse than Western countries toward seniors. This has resulted in an increase of suicide rates in China, South Korea, and Taiwan!

The wake up call (for us napping seniors) can most readily be detected in one paragraph from the WaPo story. Absorb this…

“In a 2015 survey by the Harris Poll…65 percent of boomers rated themselves as being the ‘best problem-solvers/troubleshooters,’ and only 5 percent of millennials agreed. Fifty-four percent of millennials thought boomers were the ‘biggest roadblocks.’ Sometimes these perceptions come straight from the top: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg once said ‘young people are just smarter.’”

One researcher at New York University’s Stern School of Business, even said “younger people tend to resent it when older workers don’t ‘get out of the way’ and retire.”

Enough already!

Of course, some seniors will pursue such things as an EEOC filing (as Kleber did) in clear cases where they feel they’ve been wronged. There are legal protections derived from such legislation as The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. But who wants to age fighting legal battles?

I’ve been thinking of another idea. Call it “Seniors United” or “Fossil Fuel” if you will. It includes the banding together of unemployed, but very willing and able, older adults who want to work. It could be organized both regionally and nationally.

You enter the program through aptitude and skill analysis. There are innovator teams to generate new product and service ideas. Development teams to determine how best to create a marketable product or service. Marketing teams strategize how to engage with the end user. Finance teams work on budgets and cost analysis. Revenue generating teams look at all reasonable ways of getting the necessary capital. And a workforce is established by skilled, experienced producers.

In other words, this age- and experience-rich group creates their own business development world. Imagine a large complex where all the employees are over 50! Experience and wisdom would be rampant!

I’m confident there’s enough investment capital from the senior population to make such an idea happen. As with any enterprise, there are certainly challenges in creating a venture with a more aging workforce. But it certainly beats sitting around and complaining about the circumstances. Or growling at the quotes from some smart aleck technology entrepreneurs!

The Bible offers clear teaching about respecting parents and the older crowd. Here’s an example: “Show respect to the elderly, and honor older people. In this way you show respect for your God. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:32, God’s Word Translation)

As author May Sarton wrote, “Do not deprive me of my age. I have earned it.”

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app. 

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