Ageism is an ugly word and it seems to have crept silently into our community. It’s the last of the isms to get any attention (after sexism and racism), but it is rampant, especially in the workplace.
Once people hit 50 or 55 they start to worry about how their age is perceived and whether they will be passed over for a job or even a promotion in favour of a younger person. And in the last five years age discrimination lawsuits have been on the increase.
As a society we make jokes about ageing and comment on going ‘downhill’. We give discounts to seniors, and send joke birthday cards about growing old, so is it any wonder they feel that they are less valuable?
I had not been aware of ageism until recently when I decided to find some part-time work with the added bonus of some extra income to keep me in frocks, fake tan and sherbet lemons.
I spotted an ad for an assistant in a coffee house. Just up my street, I thought. How wonderfully refreshing it would be to soak up some Pompey culture and serve delicious coffee and tempting pastries to the great Portsmouth public.
So I applied and was called for an interview. It went well I thought. My inner voice whispered to me ‘it’s in the bag’. A few days passed when an e-mail arrived only to say that unfortunately I had not been successful.
I wrote back asking why as I wanted to know what they had been looking for since I had the experience and would be able to help in other areas where perhaps the other candidates could not.
I was told it had been a difficult decision so I asked if she had been looking for someone younger. I didn’t get a reply, but weeks later I ventured into the shop and lo and behold there were two twentysomethings behind the counter.
Since then I have applied for a few similar jobs and it’s been the same thing.
I don’t have a problem with the younger generation, but it incenses me that society treats anyone over the age of 40 like this.
I have only one thing to say to employers: wake up and smell the coffee (excuse the pun). This fortysomething is not ready to replace her lattes with mugs of cocoa just yet.