Monday, January 11, 2010

Age Discrimination

This news about Senator Reid’s racist comments about Obama bothers me but the President has accepted the apology, so let’s move on. Reid should not resign. When you see me say that, do you automatically brand me politically? Do you make assumptions about my attitudes toward politics or race? You can’t possibly know what I think based on the first two sentences. This paragraph and the picture of me on this blog do not tell the whole story of me, do they? The same could be said about what you say and what you look like, right?

But this post is not about politics or race. This is about a form of discrimination that crosses race, religion, politics and gender: age discrimination.

I’d like to believe that baby boomers still rule, but younger people have so many misconceptions about us that I have stopped telling my age. I can’t hide that I’m over 50, but that’s mostly because my previous blog was about being over 50. I won’t delete it; it is what it is. But I no longer tell anyone my age because people make too many incorrect assumptions based on that number. It’s just a number.

There is only one thing I can’t do now that I could do in my 30s … run a 10k race. The only reason is because of a knee injury from my 30s.

A few more observations:

In business – older people have the benefit of experience. That does not have to mean they/we think things were done better in the past. It means we’ve seen a wider variety of methods and trends and can add that to our strategic thinking when facing today’s issues. And we have a clue how to function if a computer system crashes.

In love - we again benefit from experience, in mental, emotional and physical contexts. And we don’t usually play the immature games from our 20s and even 30s.

The worst ageism occurs in advertising. Youth dominates this field, in part because of the perception that younger people are free-spending lemmings who can be influenced by commercials. Those same young ad execs missed the part about how the 50-plus crowd has more money than anyone and will spend it. Boomers are spending it on different products, like smaller (but more expensive) homes, education for themselves (learning what they really want this time) and college for their kids, travel (cruises, for example, and not senior bus trips to Branson), cars (luxury), technology (they buy the second round of new tech stuff, after the bugs have been worked out), financial products (retirement is coming and it won’t be cheap), and services for their own aging parents. And we don’t all have gray hair and we don’t all drive old Mustang convertibles.

This is all easy for me to say. I think I still look 45. Maybe I’m delusional. Maybe I’m expressing my own form of age discrimination. Whatever the case, I urge you to look at each person as an individual and if you have to judge them at all, base it on who and what they are as an individual. Age might play a role but it’s not the whole story.

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Read on for a little more perspective – and remember this next time you see a movie or go to a U2 concert:

Who is turning 50 this year? Bono (pictured at right), Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Hugh Grant, Antonio Banderas, Amy Grant.

Stars who are already past 50: Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Stone, Kevin Costner, Holly Hunter, Michelle Pfeiffer, Madonna.

Turning 60 this year: Bruce Springsteen (pictured at right)

Already over 60: Stevie Nicks, Billy Crystal, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Plant, Diane Sawyer.

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