An Honest Conversation About Ageism.
A preface: Maybe an act of self protection. I suspect most people who will read this are the exception to the rule, and we are the ones who can move the needle.
I am 66 years old and have made a name for myself in the niche market of senior living. I plan and hope to continue making a positive impact in this space for at least another 10 years.
I, too, have experienced people judging me because of my age. It’s frustrating, I am now considered a senior citizen.
I qualify to move into age-restricted communities and yet . . . I am more active, more productive, and making a bigger impact on the world than many people in their 30s, 40s and 50s that I know.
Yet for All That
It is simplistic to chock up every negative thing that happens to older people as ageism. I could give you a list of friends who are in their mid-50s and 60s who I wouldn’t hire either. (And, yes my team includes plenty of older people, with the oldest having just turned 85.) They have lost their drive, they are stuck in their ways, they want lots of money.
They don’t want to be stigmatized for their age, but, in a very real sense, they expect to be treated differently because of their age.
Is the Criticism Deserved?
I will get some heat for this, but I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. Among other things, we Boomers have created a massive deficit that will do great harm to future generations, way after we are gone. We engendered a system where the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are paying the price.
When I was in college, I paid the state of California $60 a semester for a great university education. The textbooks were costly, but not outrageous. It was pretty easy to go to school full-time with a part-time job during the school year and a full-time job in the summer. You could finish a 4-year degree with little or no debt.
You could buy a used car for basic transportation for a few hundred dollars and a new car for a few thousand. Now new cars cost what middle class homes used to cost.
It used to be easy to get a starter home coming out of college for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars down and with an FHA loan you were well on the way. Today, homeownership is out of reach of many.
Renting is no better.
The political environment is characterized by hate and cynicism on all sides.
Finally, we have no real sense of morality. Look at how big corporations like Microsoft and Facebook intrude into our lives, just because they can. They flaunt basic human decency in the name of the dollar.
We deserve some of the criticism.
We Boomers were a unique generation that history will likely show received a lot of benefits that were not earned. Some came from prior generations and some are still to be paid for by future generations. We should be grateful, not resentful. We should have humble appreciation.
I cringe when I see Boomers move into retirement and make it all about themselves -- their leisure and pleasure with no sense of the price that has been paid by others for that privilege. Yet Boomers represent huge potential to change the world. It is time for those of us who have influence to use that influence not simply to demand more rights, but rather to influence our fellow Boomers to make the world a better place -- for us today and for future generations.
Will you join me in this quest?
Steve Moran is the founder of Senior Living Foresight, a media platform focused on helping senior living leaders create better teams and better environments for team members and residents. You can find him on LinkedIn, YouTube, and www.seniorlivingforesight.net.