Change The Process – Fix The Flaws?

Good Morning Boomers!

Many talk about the coming tsunami as Boomers retire and begin collecting Social Security.  Yet many Boomers who still want to work, who need to work, are finding it very difficult to find a job after being downsized, etc., whether they are 45 or 65. 

Many are going back to school to update skills or to prepare for new careers.  Some will be successful and find encore careers that fulfill their desires.  But for more to succeed in this quest, more employers must embrace the benefits that come from hiring older workers – both in terms of the knowledge and work ethic that Boomers bring to the table and in terms of the many other benefits to society.   

We currently ask people who reach a certain age to retire.  In effect, we pay them not to work.  But in reality, many want to continue working and would do so if the opportunity was available.  Seems such a system is more than a little self-defeating and is in fact making the strains on social security much worse than they need to be. 

Now I am not suggesting that social security be changed, altered, reduced, or otherwise negatively impacted.  We need it to be there.  But we need it to still be there in the future.  So to be clear, I am not talking about a change in the social security eligibility age, nor a change in the current structure of the system or in the benefits it provides.  I am suggesting a change in our attitudes about who is a useful and productive employee or job candidate.     

Why do some employers have a mandatory retirement age?  Shouldn’t abilities determine whether you keep your job, or whether you can get another one?  Why do so many people think that the passage of 45 or 50 years makes some “too old to hire” when so many live to be twice that age?  How can one be competent and able one day, but incompetent and unable the day after a birthday?   

Our society often puts people “out to pasture” based upon age while some of our companies shun hiring people who have gray in their hair because of a perception of their abilities.  That is age bias and it has become more rampant than ever before, likely due to the competition for good jobs during this tough economy.  

Such bias was once reserved for those nearing retirement age but has now spread to include even those in their mid 40’s.  So as Social Security threatens to break under the strain, we are becoming more ageist as a society.  What is a Boomer to do?  If they can’t get a job, they begin collecting Social Security as early as allowed out of necessity.  This just further strains a system already in danger of failing us all.     

What if we stopped judging people by their age and instead judged them on their abilities?  What if we encouraged people to stay productive, to continue working, to share their skills, their knowledge, their ideas, their experiences?  What if we made it easier for people to work longer instead of encouraging them to stop too soon?  Might this simple change in our process fix some of the flaws we face?

This change doesn’t require any new government initiative.  It doesn’t require any new taxes.  All it requires is a change in attitude, a change in our collective perceptions about age.  It might even relieve some of the strain on the Social Security system.  That would be good for everyone.

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