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Addressing ageism in the workplace

May 24, 2019  · 2 min read

The International Federation on Ageing is holding the 15th Global Conference on Ageing in Niagara Falls, Canada from 1-3 November 2020.  One of the conference’s central themes is ‘Combating Ageism’ which refers to prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination directed towards people based on age and can exist on both systemic levels through policies and programs and interpersonal levels through implicit bias.  As ageism can extend to employment, one conference sub-section of this theme is focuses specifically on ‘Access to Work and Reshaping Retirement’, which will address the concept of ‘decent work for all’, the social and economic contribution of older adults, and policy development.

A recently published article from Business Insider contextualizes this theme and argues the primary barrier to securing decent work is not skill limitations, but ageism.  That is, discriminatory policies/programs and implicit biases limit employment opportunities for older adults.  

Adults aged 55 and over are increasing at the greatest rate in the workforce due in part to increased life expectancy and financial limitations.  However, many of these older adults are pushed into retirement before they are ready and need to seek out other employment.  In the US three million older adults are seeking full-time work, and among those successful, many end up in precarious-type jobs that pay significantly less than their previous positions.

Organizations are working to dismantle ageism in the workplace. For example, the AARP not only helps employers develop age-inclusive internal training programs, but also works to shed light on the value older adults bring to workplaces. In doing so, AARP addresses both the policy/program and implicit bias factors of ageism.

An article from the CBC describes efforts made by Passport for Employment, on Prince Edward Island, Canada, to help older adults find work.  The article explains that employers are now starting to recognize the many reasons older adults make great employees including their loyalty, experience, strong work ethic, positive attitudes and flexibility.

However, more needs to be done. IFA expert Prof. Yitzhak Brick is an expert in health promotion, volunteer work and employment of older adults, technology, ageing and public policy.  Contact him for an expert opinion on employment of older adults.  Also visit the 15th Global Conference on Ageing website to further explore how the conference will incorporate these themes and to register or submit an abstract.

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