That’s the subtitle of a Newsweek article by contributing editor Eliot Cose, which cites bleak employment statistics for workers over 55, a jump in age-discrimination complaints, and a recent Supreme Court ruling that weakens the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
Individuals, families, businesses, and society as a whole all benefit from the productivity of older people who remain in the workforce. As employers struggle to fill projected “seasoned talent” shortages, particularly in education and health care, the cost of age discrimination will only grow. The exodus of the baby boom generation around 2016 will hit employers much harder than current retirement rates. Yet employers consistently exaggerate age as a liability, often setting the cutoff as low as 40.
Studies from the Sloan Center on Aging and Work and other sources show that older workers are dependable, punctual, committed to quality, exhibit good judgment, have low absenteeism and accident rates — and are the most engaged of all workers when offered the chance to grow and advance on the job. The fundamental problem is the persistence of negative stereotypes in the face of all this evidence — stereotypes reinforced by the media and internalized by Americans of all ages. “It would be great if correcting that were as simple as changing a law,” wrote Cose. “Instead, we face the more daunting task of changing ourselves.”