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Age discrimination: Myths about aging workers

When you were younger, it may have felt like the deck was stacked against you in your professional field. Every company you talked to wanted to hire someone with experience. How can you get experience, you wondered, if no one will hire you? Finally, you got your foot in the door, you started your career and you eventually became an experienced worker who had no problem landing jobs.

As you've gotten older, though, you noticed a strange shift. While experience was great in your 30s and 40s, now you feel like it is working against you. You have too much experience, according to some. You start to feel like the industry favors young workers. You begin experiencing discrimination at work. You feel like you have lost control of your career and everything you worked so hard for over the years.

Why does this happen?

There are a lot of reasons, including issues with salaries and pay scales. Companies can often pay younger workers less than experienced workers who demand a high salary for that experience. But it's not all about money. Part of the problem is that people tend to buy into a few myths about older workers. These may include the following:

  • They are out of touch with the realities of the industry.
  • They are old-fashioned and refuse to change with the times.
  • They can no longer connect with young people or the customer base.
  • Changes in physical ability may make them less effective in the workplace.
  • They are not as dedicated to their jobs or careers as younger workers.
  • They want to slow down and do less work as they near retirement.
  • They do not have the tech savvy needed to use modern devices.
  • They do not have enough stamina to put in long hours or work as hard as the company needs them to work.

All of these are myths, and experts note that the opposite often applies. Older workers are certainly dedicated, which is why they still hold those jobs. They can absolutely connect with the customer base because they have decades of experience working with it. Their physical ability typically is not going to have any bearing on their job performance.

But, realities aside, discrimination is going to keep happening as long as people believe these myths. Older workers are going to find challenges they never imagined when they were younger.

Your rights

Of course, age discrimination is illegal, no matter how old you are. You absolutely deserve the same treatment and opportunities as anyone else. If you do get discriminated against or you unfairly lose your job, make sure you know what legal options you have.

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