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Older Workers are at a Disadvantage in the Workplace

Employers aren’t supposed to ask your age on a job application.  If you have 30 years of work experience, it’s your choice to only detail part of that; recent experience that applies to the job you seek.  That’s all that really matters to the employer anyway. There’s no need to list all of those irrelevant jobs you held when you were younger.

After all, you don’t want to look too old.

But they always find out. On each on-line application, when you’re asked to outline your education, you’re required to cite the year you received your degree.  Then they’ve got you.

Older workers, despite the proven creativity, depth of experience and work ethic they can bring to an employer, are all too often perceived as out of touch and expensive. Employers are afraid they won’t be around for long.  They must be slow and can’t keep up.  With increasing frequency they’re not even getting callbacks for interviews.

They don’t even get the chance to counter how such assumptions about them are usually flat-out wrong.

Too many people in their 50s and 60s are told they’re overqualified (codeword for too old) and forced to take low-pay, low-skill, entry level jobs in which they barely get by. Health insurance may not even be offered.

All of this comes when health care costs, especially for those of us managing a chronic condition like a mental illness and its co-morbidities, are piling up.

53% of baby boomers surveyed by the job site iHire feel they have been discriminated against at work because of their age.

70% of boomers are working jobs in which they feel underqualified, and can detail evidence of age discrimination during the hiring process.  And 45% percent feel their generation (born between 1946 and 1964) is negatively stereotyped about workplace issues.

It’s a reported problem we all need to consider, because by 2024, 1 in 4 workers will be over 55.

Ageism is short-sighted by those who practice it, because excluding older workers comes with a tremendous cost to a business’ potential growth and profit.  Valuable experience in marketing, R&D, finance and accounting, operations and supply chain, as well as new product development, is being sidelined.

Young people bring so much energy and potential to business, but they lose out in not being able to learn from people who have been there, through good and bad markets, before. New ideas need to be reality checked, and no one can do that better than a person with significant experience.  A recent article in Forbes details how unseasoned talent and an overreliance on big data algorithms is killing creativity in the ad industry.

But young, untested talent is cheap.  So even though the average car buyer is 56, ad agencies are hiring mostly people under 30 to market to them.  And although baby boomers hold 70% of the disposable income in the US, they are with decreasing frequency among the business people developing products to fit their own lifestyle.

Ageism will not only threaten individual workers, it threatens to hold back entire industries.

We live in a world where demands for diversity in all spheres of life drown out reasonable voices that correctly maintain that some people should not be displaced. Institutional knowledge is valuable. Efforts to elevate new constituencies do not have to leave behind existing structures that work.

But older workers are being displaced.  They don’t complain much, nor do they organize, because most of them are doing OK. But that is quickly changing, and a voiceless generation is pushing to be heard.

The twilight years weren’t supposed to be so full of disappointment.  That’s not whining, and few older people are making demands for special rights.

We just want to be honestly considered for our individual merit.

Older Workers are at a Disadvantage in the Workplace

George Hofmann

After much of a life spent in and out of hospitals, jobs, and relationships, George has spent the last dozen years living successfully with bipolar disorder 1. He teaches meditation as an adjunct therapy for mental illness, and writes and speaks about the therapies of meditation, movement, and meaningful work. Visit George at or join the Facebook group Practicing Mental Illness

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APA Reference
Hofmann, G. (2019). Older Workers are at a Disadvantage in the Workplace. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Jun 2019
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