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Age Discrimination in America - Elderly Workers

Updated on March 29, 2012
Security work on weekends
Security work on weekends | Source

Is It Age Discrimination?

I only work weekends, as many of you may already know. As a person who greatly values personal relationships I try to remember what’s going on in the lives of coworkers from week to week - without actually seeing or talking to these wonderful people. One of the newest additions to the department also works only weekends opposite my shift. We get to say hello and goodbye to one another two days a week. Of course we do hang over into each others shifts quite a bit and chat because we hit it off really well.

This newer employee’s name is Ann. She is an older woman, almost retirement age, who just moved back to Cleveland, Ohio after being gone for 45 years. Ann moved back to be with her aging parents who now need help. She left behind a career as Memphis, Tennessee Public School District Transportation Supervisor, a beautiful home, and all her friends. She is working part-time security while she looks for something a little more in-line with her future goals. While we were talking last week Ann mentioned that she’d had an interview for a temporary assignment of which she was very excited. I reminded myself all week “ask first thing Saturday evening if Ann heard about the position; ask first thing Saturday evening if Ann heard about the position”. Well I asked and guess what, Ann heard alright. She heard that the temporary position had been withdrawn from the temp agencies queue and that her resume would remain on file. Then she was told she’d be contacted if anything became available. Case closed. Ann is saddened and discouraged because she thinks she is being faced with age discrimination. Ann said that during her telephone interview the interviewer kept mentioning how impressive Ann’s work history and education were. But once Ann got in for a face to face interview everything started to go downhill. The conversation got me thinking and wondering.

Elderly worker still has his skills
Elderly worker still has his skills | Source

Ann is not the first older adult I have met who thinks age discrimination is a huge problem for older working Americans. Another example is a man I met 10 years ago named Mike. At the time Mike was working as a gas station attendant - he was also retirement age, 68 years old. It turns out Mike was a retired CPA who was laid off a few years before he started the gas station position. He had spent months preparing a resume and updating his skill set in hopes of finding another accounting position. He remembered sitting in numerous interviews with college graduates and feeling confident that his experience would help him. Nope, instead he was told he was too experienced or overqualified time and time again. Mike took that to mean he was too old and finally gave up looking - only to accept the gas station job.

Another example is a man named Vinny who did time in the military, got an education in computer sciences and worked for the local newspaper – who maintained Vinny’s certification and training. Sadly, Vinny lost his job when the newspaper downsized in 1998. Vinny immediately started applying for positions and showing up to interviews. Like Mike, Vinny was confident that his experience and training would land him a job before the younger candidates. Vinny started getting discouraged after hearing how over-qualified he was too. Vinny’s wife even decided to try to make her husband look younger by coloring his graying hair – hoping to give him more of a chance during interviews. Eventually Vinny gave up and accepted a security position making a third less than he made at the newspaper.

My question is this, are older Americans really facing job discrimination or are they simply too sensitive to the rejection and use age as a factor?

Is Age Discrimination an Real Issue in America?

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    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 

      6 years ago from Asheville NC

      Hi Ardie,

      Great Hub and thanks for bringing it to the forefront. I have experienced this discrimination first hand on more than one occasion. It is not impossible to get beyond but it does take a special mindset. Most of us who have worked for 30+ years or more aren't looking for a fight to find acceptable employment, but sometimes it's what's required.

      Yes, it's next to impossible to prove, and I agree with you, I would not want to work for an organization so shortsighted that it cannot comprehend the value of experience. Truth is, they either can't afford it or don't have the talent to manage it!

      Voted Up and Awesome!

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hello Sec20 - American View is out for a bit but I am sure he will respond when he gets back :)

    • secularist10 profile image


      6 years ago from New York City

      Ok, I just saw American View's comment, so I will respond now.

      "Sec is a perfect example of someone who loves to spin numbers to his advantage without truly understanding them."

      Uh huh. This better be good.

      "Obviously over 65 will have a low unemployment rate, most of them are retired ad not in the work force."

      Now THAT is spin! LOL! The statistics show that, of all the people who either have a job or are looking for one, there are more--proportionally--among the young that don't have a job. It's very simple. Those not interested in working, such as students or retirees, do not factor at all.

      "BLS only counts people in the work force."

      Exactly. And yet you don't seem to quite get what is at work here.

      "Look at it this way, if there are 20 people in the workforce and one gets laid off, it is 5% like on the chart. But when there are a thousand 5% of them equals 50 out of work."

      Not sure what you are trying to argue here. If you go to the BLS link I posted, you can see that the population of younger workers is much greater than the population of older workers. Suppose the unemployment rate for each was the same. As you yourself say, this would mean that a much greater number of young workers are unemployed than older workers.

      However, the unemployment rate is HIGHER for the young, and moreover, there are MORE YOUNG WORKERS. This double whammy means there is much greater aggregate total unemployment among the young than the old. Again, it's very simple. The numbers tell the story.

      "The under 18 unemployment number is high for many reasons."

      Yes. But if the issue is age discrimination, the stats show that it is not as much of an issue for the old workers as often believed.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hi Express10 – Im sorry it took forever to get back to you! I agree 100% with what you say. I know quite a few older people who are in WAY better health than the younger people around me! A lot of things should be taken into consideration before an employer decides NOT to hire someone based on age alone.

      Hello Keri, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. There are several laws in the US dealing with age discrimination but sadly we also do what you described. Im sure many employers discriminate without even necessarily realizing what they’re doing. I wish it wasn’t so – I know lots of older people who are more with it, feistier, healthier, and harder working than these young folks nowadays (wow, that made me feel old to say!)

    • Keri Summers profile image

      Keri Summers 

      6 years ago from West of England

      I think it's tough for everyone, but yes there is age discrimination. Our discrimination laws have been strengthened in the UK over the past few years, and we now have a general discrimination policy including age. But I think there is still a lot of conscious or unconscious discrimination in business, many people just aren't aware when they're discriminating. I was at a conference on discrimination in TV recently, and even the invited speakers came out with some real bloopers - assumptions about who would and wouldn't be suitable for working in or appearing on TV. But attitudes are starting to change regarding age, and I hope that they are in the US too. But it's early days in this change of attitude, and yes age discrimination is definitely an issue.

      I liked that you illustrated the issue with case histories. Good hub.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 

      6 years ago from East Coast

      This is a very interesting and timely hub. I would also like to add that just because a person is older, that doesn't necessarily mean that they will always have major health care expenses so that excuse just doesn't sit well with me. I've seen this excuse used & it's not only unfair, it is a detriment to a whole group of people who often have a lot to offer.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hello Express10 :) You bring up another excellent point that I failed to mention above - the cost to insure the older employee! Sadly a company does have to pay more for an employee who may be seen as having higher risk for heart and health issues. Thank you so much for bringing this up so it can be added to the discussion.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 

      6 years ago from East Coast

      I have to agree that there is age discrimination going on. If an older person walks into a company that has not one 50+ year old, they will likely not be able to get a position there because of a variety of reasons. Most employers see their experience as too expensive, their age and possibly health as even more expensive to put on the group insurance plan, and most companies prefer to use young cheap talent. I'm saddened that I see people with great skills, talents, and personalities being sidelined in jobs that do nothing for their true abilities.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Neverland

      Uninvited Writer – it’s a shame what a person has to go through in order to get a job just to live. I wish you the best job hunting. It’s a tough market out there and so many things can hold a person back. I just don’t get it. An older employee should look more desirable to companies! No small kids to deal with, more experience, perhaps a stronger work ethic (due to maturity).

      Hi AmerView – I see what you’re saying. Sadly, I am one of those people who try not to dabble in conflict so I let things go. I will look into your charity and learn more about it. Like I said in the previous comment I would think employers would want older employees. I know one problem I will have when I work fulltime is having care for my kids over extended breaks and on days they’re ill. Older employees don’t typically have to deal with that. I don’t know – it’s too bad employers can’t just hire a best candidate rather than factoring age, gender, and race.

      Hi Sharyn! I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with this too. I can’t believe how many people are commenting that they deal with the age discrimination in one direction or the other. My father in law ran into the “too experienced” excuse too. The hiring company flat out told my FIL that they just couldn’t offer to pay him what he deserved. My FIL said it was ok he just really needed a job bad and the manager said nope, sorry - you’d just leave as soon as you found something that can pay more. Stupid if you ask me! I hope you have better luck soon :(

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      6 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Hey Ardie - A great topic and a big YES from me on your poll. I have personally felt age discrimination many times. The problem I run into is that the first job I had after high school was long-term, over 16 years. Because of the dates of that job, you can easily guess that I am least that age if I graduated at that point. If I leave the job off, my resume is no where near as "meaty" especially since it was a great job at a local utility. I've been told to leave the dates off which I've tried. But then I've run in to the too much experience issue as well. What the employers do not realize is that I am SO willing to take a job that is not anywhere near the salary I used to make. But they assume differently and throw the resume to the side. It is very frustrating.

    • American View profile image

      American View 

      6 years ago from Plano, Texas

      Sec is a perfect example of someone who loves to spin numbers to his advantage without truly understanding them. Obviously over 65 will have a low unemployment rate, most of them are retired ad not in the work force. BLS only counts people in the work force. Look at it this way, if there are 20 people in the workforce and one gets laid off, it is 5% like on the chart. But when there are a thousand 5% of them equals 50 out of work. The under 18 unemployment number is high for many reasons. One, many got part time jobs but decided to just finish school so leave the workforce, the other is many older people who cannot get jobs are taking the waiters, McDonald's, the jobs that age group generally take.

      There is no doubt that the older job hunter is being discriminated against and to not acknowledge it is foolish. We as a country already ignore the elderly to much. for example 2-3 million go to bed hungry every night. Which is why is the official charity of The American View. Can you not figure out why companies do not want elderly? One they have experience, sometimes more than the owner. With experience generally comes a higher paycheck. Bosses do not want that so they elderly are instantly dismissed. Next is the healthcare concerns. The cost of the elderly employees healthcare package will be much higher than the younger employee, so, strike two. Then comes the assumption because they are older they will be late or take a lot of sick time of, as if they are so frail. Strike three and they do not get hired. There are more reasons but these are at the top. Hard to prove, yes does it go on can I hear a Hell Yes.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      6 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      I had the same experience as Ann at a temp agency. I aced all the tests, had all the qualifications they need but as soon as they saw me in person suddenly they had nothing for me and I haven't heard back from them. I believe the rates for unemployment for over 50 might be lower but most of those are people who have been in their jobs for 10-20 years. Just let them try and find another job. I have been looking since last April.

      I should add, I'm in Canada not the US.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hi Pamela, excellent point. I see how it can depend on the field a person is trying to get hired into whether that occupation would be more suited to a younger person or an experienced or mature worker. When I was reading up some stats on age discrimination I came across a blog that offered ways for older workers to compete with younger workers and the ideas were all good: stay in great physical shape, rest up to maintain high energy, and take classes to update any technical information.

      RHW, thanks! Im glad you added to this. There are some professions that you can only build upon knowledge over time. The older workers are needed to step in where the oldest workers had to leave off, then the younger ones come in to learn from the bottom up. I just hope when it’s time for me to find a full time position that IM not too old.

      Hi Haunty, it’s a shame that age discrimination can happen everywhere and in BOTH directions. Too young and no experience you cant get the job – too old and overqualified but ready to retire and you cant get the job. So we must all fight to appear middle-aged

      Hello Tammy! I didn’t have any idea Target does that! Its awful…the more comments I am reading on this the more nervous I am becoming in terms of looking for a job myself….Im not getting any younger here and the only experience I have it wiping kids’ noses. I would prefer older workers too – in my experience they are more dependable (ok, Im braced – here come the lashings)

      Hi erinb :) since writing this hub and reading all the comments I’ve come to the conclusion that age discrimination can go both ways – too young and too old. And it’s a shame really. It seems to depend on the occupation how the pendulum will swing. Thanks for reading!

      Hello Chatkath, Grrr, both ways! Well at least we can fairly say Yes, there is inded age discrimination and it impacts both ends of the spectrum. So then I guess it can all be called either incredibly unfair or simply fair. And the people who win are the ones 30-40!

      Hello Alecia :) Im glad you have your fall back plan and hopefully something will open up for you. Im not sure if I would fall into any category right now because I haven’t looked for too many jobs lately since I stay home all week by choice. I am over 30, college educated but NO experience – yikes

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      This is a great hub but I also feel like a victim of reverse age discrimination. I am college educated but since I lack experience, I usually get passed over. However, I have a reliable fall back plan that older people don't: parents. I can keep looking until I find something but if I was older, it would be hard and I'd have to take what I was given. I agree that older people have alot to offer and I see that just with the jobs I've had the opportunity to have. Enjoyed this hub.

    • Chatkath profile image


      6 years ago from California

      Great Hub ardie! I am glad that you opened this can of worms and all the awesome feedback that goes with it. As an over 40 worker, I do know that age discrimination is alive and well in America, however, I also remember how frustrating it was in my 20's to be told that the job I applied for was going to a more experienced candidate, so indeed it does work both ways!

      The ideal work force is a diverse combination of applicants! Balanced is always BEST! Thanks for sharing a interesting topic....

    • erinb62 profile image

      Erin Buttermore 

      6 years ago from Laconia

      well I believe it is harder for younger people in their 20s and 30s to get jobs because other more qualified, older people are the ones that get the jobs! So I guess there could be age discrimination in some instances (although I see many older people doing tough jobs that you might otherwise think were too much for them)but only in the way people think that older people can't do the job

    • tammyswallow profile image


      6 years ago from North Carolina


      This is a very important topic. I say absolutley there is age discrimination. Anyone near 40 can see just by filling out an application to a place like Target. As soon as you enter your age, the system automatically sends you an automated email saying thanks, but no thanks. If I were hiring, I would want older people working for me. They are more experienced, settled, and know more. You did a great job here!

    • Haunty profile image


      6 years ago from Hungary

      I agree with most of the comments here. Age discrimination is not always a good thing. Sometimes it prevents the elderly from getting the jobs that they are otherwise perfectly qualified for. It's the same in my country. In fact I think it's the same everywhere, as one of my aging friends who is an oil engineer has been discriminated against in Norway (4th wealthiest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita) despite her lifetime experience in the field. Thanks for bringing up the issue, Ardie.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Ardie - I think you are on target. I do think age is a huge problem for people who get laid off and need to find a job that is par to the one they had. I think employers are more reluctant to hire older people - that are closer to retirement - or might learn slower or move slower.

      I also think there is a faction - where age can be on your side. In the research business I own - you can only gain more knowledge with years put into the field...something different happens every day - laws change - and no matter how current you are - you can't figure out problems if you don't know how things worked before:) lol The "go to" people in my field are the oldest ones I can find!

      Excellent hub - I am getting older and if I ever need a job - I worry about that sometimes.

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      I saw a documentary on PBS about younger people who were having a hard time competing in the job market against people who are in their 40's and 50's.

      I see a lot of people who look to be in their 80's working in retail. In the past these people would be retired.

      It probably depends on the field of work but many would prefer a mature person since they tend to have a better work ethic. If speed is required they would naturally want a younger worker.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hello Stephanie and VERY well said. I am seeing from both age groups here and you really sound like you know what you’re talking about. Perhaps I should’ve written a hub on age discrimination in general and not specified it to older Americans only.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hi Christoph, I believe it is too – can you believe I even voted that way in my own silly poll?? Hahah But like you say – we need to learn to value age and experience and not just value youth and vitality. Of course I say this as a totally young person who is not aged in ANY way ;)

      Hello Cagsil, I knew you’d be here with an opinion :0) And of course I agree with it. I think ANY type of discrimination is difficult to prove. So my advice to the people who feel they are being discriminated against is to move on, keep looking for a better job – because you wouldn’t want to work for the discriminating person anyways. Or as you state they should find a way to work for themselves. Most of them draw pensions and just need to supplement the income. A business venture – yes. I will suggest this to Ann and Vinny. As for Mike – he already works for himself preparing taxes for friends and family from home. So kudos to him!!!!!!! I really hope you decide to rewrite that article.

      Hello dear Arlene! Society does indeed value youth and vitality. When you see a person selling a product would you rather deal with a perky, young athlete who brims with excitement and energy or some old fuddy-dud who tells you the basic facts learned from experience and gets on with totaling your order? I personally would rather have the older experienced grump hahah but I don’t know if others feel the same way. Your example is perfect! Lots of the men age and become distinguished in Hollywood. Many of the women just age.

      Hello cmbeverly, I think it works both ways too. I had a problem once getting a specific job because I was (WAS) younger – 19 at the time. It was for a home-based business and a few days after the interview I called to inquire about the position. The person hiring said he gave the position to another woman although she and I had the same skill sets because she had a child to support. Ooookay. Anyways, if you do choose to write those hubs let me know and we can link ;)

      Pointtomake - Thank you! The hiring process can indeed weed out any candidate for any number of reasons without making it look like discrimination of any type. Sadly Ohio has a poor employment record right now anyways. So I don’t know if I’m seeing this more often out of age of the people around me or out of the crappy job market. I think any company would do well to hire both older, experienced employees, middle-aged “new career move” employees, and young college grads with minimal experience. ANY workforce should be diverse :)

      Hi alocsin :) I wrote this article early yesterday morning before reading the newspaper or catching up on my Internet news…because I knew I was behind on the 30 Hubs in 30 Days Challenge! After chatting with my coworker and typing this I Google’d my local paper and guess what was on the front page – this same topic. Although I felt like a copycat I felt better knowing others were wondering the same thing!

      secularist10 - you never leave a comment that's easy to reply back at ;) Okay, I will try to keep up. I love how you support your comments with numbers and sources. After seeing the numbers and comparing side by side (or rather top to bottom) I realize a whole different group who is having a difficult time finding work - those people the age I've already come through thankfully. I wonder if that has to do with minimal experience and finding entry level positions. Or perhaps as you've said - the younger people just don't have the social circle yet to find and get into the jobs. I will have to look for my own numbers now :) Thank you for always bringing so much to any conversation.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      6 years ago from USA

      I think it's possible to encounter age discrimination, particularly in technology fields where there are many college grads trying to enter the job market who might be perceived to have better knowledge of state-of-the-art technology. Age discrimination is a funny thing - it depends on how old you are as to how you look at it! Many young people trying to enter the job market lose out to older people with more experience. It's a tough job market out there with a lot of competition!

    • secularist10 profile image


      6 years ago from New York City

      Eh... I don't buy it. Is there age discrimination in existence? Yes. Do certain individuals suffer for being older? Yes. But is this as big a problem as we hear? No.

      Here is Exhibit A: the unemployment rates by age, for 2010.

      Here they are summarized:

      Age 16-19: 25.9%

      20-24: 15.5%

      25-29: 10.9%

      30-34: 9.2%

      35-39: 8.1%

      40-44: 8.1%

      45-49: 7.8%

      50-54: 7.6%

      55-59: 7%

      60-64: 7.3%

      65-69: 7.6%

      70-74: 5.6%

      75+: 5.6%

      There is a very strong negative correlation. If older people were really hurting so bad, we would not see that unemployment goes down so much with age.

      Why do we hear so much about "age discrimination" if the actual unemployment rates for older people are so much lower than the national average? Here are a few off the top of my head:

      1. Older people tend to be more involved and more connected in their communities and among social circles, so more people will be aware of the older individual's struggle to find a job.

      2. Stereotyping of younger people. Just as older people have stereotypes associated with them, younger people do too. So rather than consider a younger person as struggling to find a job, many will just see him as lazy.

      3. The media and advocacy organizations of all kinds tend to be run by--you guessed it--folks on the older side of the spectrum. You don't see a lot of 25-year-old editors-in-chief of major newspapers. So of course this kind of a story will get more attention and exposure.

      4. The sob story. It's more heart-wrenching to see poor old granny struggling than to see a younger person. This also plays in the media.

      Anyone out of college can tell you the real age discrimination is the reverse. The first thing you will see on any job listing is the word "experience."

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      As an older person, I can definitely say there's age discrimination there. Just try to get any kind of a job at 50+ and you'll see it. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • point2make profile image


      6 years ago

      Excellent hub!! Age discrimination is real and growing. Mature workers are in a very difficult position. Many employers are very subtle and careful about what they are doing. There are many "opportunities" to reject a potential employee throughout the application and interview process.

      While many employers reject "mature" workers out of hand they are being very shortsighted. In our new economy and in the years to come "experience" will become a much sought after commodity. The companies who do not have the foresight to see the "asset" on their doorstep will ultimately pay a heavy price. Conversely those companies that value experience and find a way to blend youth and experience together will reap the benefits.

      The new economy is here your company looking forward or is it blind?

    • Cmbeverly profile image


      6 years ago from Delaware, OH

      I think it works both ways and depending on your perspective and situation age discrimination affects people differently. Older people who seek to re-enter the workforce in any industry where young people flourish will have it tough. As a young person trying to enter the banking or big business world it is difficult to say the least. Could specific individuals face age discrimination just because they're old? Definitely. Older people are stereotyped and marginalized just like everyone else on this planet. I could literally write at least two hubs worth of reasons not to hire an older person and two hubs worth on why not to hire a young person. It all just depends...

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 

      6 years ago

      Society does not value older people for their knowledge and what they can bring to the workplace. They would much rather hire someone young who will "grow" into the job with the possibility that they will stay. Discrimination comes in different forms. And it is awfully hard to prove it. Hollywood stands out when it comes to age discrimination. A woman, whether she is an actress, director or studio head, has very little time in Hollywood. But the men keep working until they die. The men are always considered handsome and bankable--at whatever age.

    • Cagsil profile image


      6 years ago from USA or America

      Hey Ardie, you can think that age discrimination is happening, but just like any other type of discrimination, it's exceptionally difficult to prove. Many employers reserve the right to hire who they think is best for the job, regardless of what education background a person has or what experience they've received during their life.

      People who have extensive backgrounds, such as these three that you have mentioned, should be doing things as "self employed" and not looking for a job. This is one of the problem with the Economy as it stands right now. There's simply not enough small businesses in America, because a lot of them have been bought up by the larger businesses. There should be at least 1 out of 5 Americans should be operating as "self-employed", so that there's always growth in America's Economy.

      The problem is no one has told the citizens about it and my last article on the topic on HubPages was so poorly written that I ended up discarding it and not re-writing. I'm sorry to hear about these people, just like many more people who read your article are going to be, but I speak the truth about "discrimination" being difficult to prove. Good hub on a topic that is probably being discussed a lot at this point. Increasing people's awareness is always a good thing. Voted up! :)

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      6 years ago from St. Louis

      I say yes. Definitely. I'm not sure what the solution is though. We need to change society itself, I think, to value experience and maturity.


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