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annehart

annehart

It would be great if jokes encouraging age discrimination in the workplace would stop

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Illustration, photography, and book by Anne Hart. 

 

Older people may want to be referred to as 'adult' or 'mature' instead of 'elderly' and 'fit' or 'athletic' instead of 'spry.' Words have connotations that turn into denotations that form images that spread to the workplace, medical environments, living arrangements,  and other areas of public life.

 

I've heard jokes about age discrimination as well as blatant discrimination when applying for jobs since back in 1963. Back then, the discrimination was to the ethnic name of my first husband. After 1967, the discrimination was because I had kids. After 1968, housing discrimination didn't want to rent to a family with children.

 

After 1970, employment discrimination was due to being newly divorced from my first husband and having a liberal arts university degree instead of a technical degree. After 1975, employment discrimination was due to wanting to write and/or edit instead of type the news stories of males with similar degrees to myself (English or journalism degrees).

After 1980, my typing speed and number of typos was calculated, resulting in not being chosen for the job. After 1981, I gave up looking for paid work outside the home. And after 1988, age discrimination was used to keep me from getting hired as a teacher on a tenure-track contract in public schools/community colleges, even after I completed my M.A. degree in English, which never did result in a permanent job that I could depend on to pay the rent and support myself.

So, as a result, I continue to write daily, unpaid at home online, being moving from my mid to late 70s rapidly....never really finding that first job that could be relied on to enable me to be financially independent of having to depend on someone else to pay the rent, utilities, insurance, bus pass (as I never learned to drive) and whatever else people with jobs have to pay for. If it wasn't one reason for employment discrimination like having kids when young, then it was age discrimination being too old, even though I'd never refuse a minimum-wage job if it were permanent and dependable.

Now that I'm too old and 'spent' to work outside the home, I happily work all day for no pay writing my daily blog. And, over the years I've also written many books, which are relatively unknown and from time to time may earn enough to buy me a nice pair of walking shoes or a monthly bus pass for seniors.

Some of the jokes told on national TV about older people, which also applies to older workers are calling them publicly by names that sound like stereotypes of older adults who have multiple disabilities. Examples are mocking-the-aged name jokes such as: Anita Walker (I need a walker) or Anita Kane (I need a cane) and other words that focus on the disabilities associated with very old age. For example saying "he's so spry" instead of he's so fit (or athletic) is associated with being old.

 

'Spry' refers to the aged. And 'fit' or 'athletic' is not associated with any particular age. The point is neutral words mean a lot when it comes to communicating and bringing people of all ages together instead of setting them apart or acting as if you'd prefer older people to be hidden away because they remind you of your own mortality instead of the wisdom of age.

 

Too many old people would like the energy of youth and the wisdom of age at the same time. And the wish for the future is that energy and wisdom can be extended many more years. Some jobs focus on experience and wisdom, and other jobs require boundless energy at any age.

Even vitamins can be labeled as 'adult' instead of 'senior' or marked as suitable for a specific age group (over 50 or over 75) can be neutral in connotation. A lot of seniors would rather be referred to as adult instead of senior or even 'mature' or 'retired' rather than 'active' because a lot of retired people of all ages are 'active' in whatever work or hobbies they're into.

It's time to stop giving old people at work joke gifts that remind them of what they already know. People already know their age and how their bodies may be changing. The practice in a joking mood, which really is abusive, is giving gifts of constipation-related or hemorrhoid-relief- seat tube-shaped products associated with 'old' people rather than people of any age with hemorrhoids when someone turns 40, 50 or 65 or some other age. Few people are uplifted and comforted by jokes that remind them that they have been 'spent.'

 

Regardless of age, people don't like to be reminded of what they know about themselves and don't want the joking discrimination, employment prejudices, and beyond. The phrase "I was only joking" is commonly used by abusers in a wide variety of situations.