Let’s not wait to dismiss ageism –– from our thoughts, discourse, and actions.
DATE: January 1, 2016 TO: Ageism FROM: Management RE: Notice of Termination
This is to notify you that, effective immediately, your services at American Society Inc. are no longer required.
During your many years of employment with us, you have displayed remarkable expertise and tenacity in fulfilling your tasks of discrimination, alienation, and isolation. However, owing to currently changing cultural perspectives and increased economic pressures that have impacted our markets, the Board has revised American Society’s mission, values, and goals. As a result, Management has determined that your position in the company is now obsolete.
Yes, this is clearly a nonsense scenario. After all, a group of people can’t “fire” an insidious and destructive concept. But this is also the New Year, when we reconsider and modify our values and goals. So I can think of no better time than now to entertain a fantasy that might help us get a firmer grip on reality. And the reality is that ageism lurks behind just about every challenge confronting older adults in their ongoing struggle to remain vital members of our society. It is also the hidden force that is holding back our economy from achieving tremendous growth that would benefit all generations. The longer we wait to confront and abolish ageism, the harder it will be to recover from its consequences. This is the year to launch a full-scale reorganization effort. But how?
I hereby call a Board meeting to consider our options.
First on the agenda: examining our target market. Whom are we serving? To answer this question, let’s look at why we adopted ageism as a strategy in the first place. That’s where the business comparison comes in. For like a company that has made a really bad decision based on a misguided mission, our society has for too long invested its capital and focused its production solely on addressing the needs and values of youth-centric consumers (of all ages), thinking that this was a sustainable way to operate. And while these efforts have created a multibillion-dollar anti-aging industry, they have also disenfranchised a significant part of our population that ironically can contribute the most –– in time, money, knowledge, and skill –– to building a new nation. We need to broaden our target customers to include everyone who believes in the value of growing old. Once we do so, we can develop a plan that takes advantage of the vast amount of human capital waiting to be productively re-engaged.
Which brings me to our next agenda item: examining our available workforce. Whom are we employing to help us in our efforts? Whether we know it or not, we’re suffering from a dearth of experienced person-power. We have to make our workforce more inclusive. When it comes to assessing older talent, we shouldn’t be making demographic policy decisions based on false assumptions. Older adults are not all alike; in fact, they are a more diverse population than any other younger generation, simply because of their longer existence. That’s the way it is with aging: The longer any cohort lives, the more varied are the paths its individual members travel. As a society, we need that variety of experience to help us in our decision-making and planning. And let’s not subscribe to the belief that older adults should retire from the business of living, or even assume that they want to. The overwhelming majority do not. Therefore, we should recruit and involve older adults in all aspects of economic and social life.
Finally, we need to examine our mission and bottom line: What is our society about, anyway, and what do we hope to gain? We need to commit ourselves to being an organized community dedicated to improving the quality of the lives of all of its citizens. Let’s reallocate the time, money, and energy we’ve wasted on promoting and maintaining ageism and instead direct it toward this higher, more humane purpose.
Let 2016 be the year we fire ageism –– from our thoughts, discourse, and actions. American Society owes it to its current stakeholders. And to future generations of investors.
Article originally published at changingaging.org.