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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On A Serious Note

  My mother asks me a LOT of questions, and I'll admit that most of them I pay very little attention to. However this morning, she asked me about random things I blog about, specifically whether or not I have mentioned the unemployed. And while I have, she asked me a few related questions that kind of affected me, they made me curious. For example, she asked what older people are to do in today's economy.

  With tough financial times comes ageism, and what is someone like my mum supposed to do with her life after he or she loses their job? While my mum (hopefully) knows that none of us kids will allow her to suffer, there are a ton of people who have worked their entire lives who are seriously at risk of being homeless.

  My mother could be one of these people. She was always a pillar of strength, having worked in some capacity since she was a child. She was the first female Industrial Mechanic Journeyman in Ontario and worked for the man for a generation. The company went under and her pension went the way of the Dodo as well. My mum is 54 years old and can build a house from the dirt up and is currently employed as a restoration cleaner for 2 dollars more than minimum wage because nobody wants to hire someone who graduated in 1972. (For those of you doing math, she was 16. She's a smart lady.) She also thanks her lucky stars that she has kids who would never allow her to become completely destitute, but what if she didn't?

  In today's world, those over 50 who lose their occupations are likely to be unemployed for longer periods than those in their thirties. Because of their age, industries are afraid that they won't be around for very long and because of their vast experience, retailers assume that they are so overqualified that they'll run for the door when something better comes along. Older workers are presumed to be less healthy than their younger peers and often times don't even get to the interview that would prove the boss wrong. If you refuse to hire someone based solely on their age, not only do they lose, but so do you. And here's why:

  Older people may not have spent years in university, but they have real life skills that can be adapted to almost any job.  It requires an insane amount of problem-solving skills to work a job whilst raising a brood of 6 kids over a span of 30 years. Just think for a second about your mother. If she's anything like mine, she's probably tough as nails and still patient enough to listen to you whine and then come up with a solution. You cannot get a PhD in life management if you haven't lived and loved and worked from the bottom up.

  Older workers know all of those little tricks to get the job done faster, tend to work harder, and take less time to train. They come from an era where people had to prove their worth, and are willing to do it all over again. Sure, an older worker might not be able to haul timber like an 18 year old (although I had a 72 year old Yugoslavian lady employee who put the boys to shame daily) , but chances are that kid would cut his or her arm off without supervision.

  The biggest injustice that today's economy has done is to the silver-haired worker. The misconceptions about age and actual employment need are so present that good people are getting a bum rap. Take a (very small) chance and give the silver fox a job. Their experience could ensure you one very happy and healthy retirement in the future and give a sense of purpose to someone terrified of the shame of living off their kids.

Be well.

Picture of my mother used with her permission.


  1. This is a problem most people don't want to talk about or ignore. Yet this is a very real problem, especially considering countries like France or Germany would like to raise the retirement age. Well, many people over 50 already don't have a job, they won't get hired because of their age (although no employer would come out and say so), now they have to wait for their retirement even longer?

  2. Older people also have better work ethics than today's generation.
    - no 'entitlement' attitudes
    - take pride in what they do
    - don't expect the company to revolve around their social life
    - are usually on time, if not early
    - don't call-out for every little belly-ache
    - generally more respectful of 'authority'


Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think