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August 2021

Demanding the Treatment We Deserve


I've often written about age discrimination in the workplace, but there is another area in which ageism can literally be a life or death situation: Health care.

A disturbing article on highlights the problem. Janine Vanderburg, founder and director of a nonprofit initiative called Changing the Narrative, tells NextAvenue, "We know we live in an age of unconscious bias, and people who work in health care aren't immune to that." Vanderburg notes that a study in the Journal of Internal Medicine found nearly a third of older adults said they frequently experience age discrimination from doctors or hospitals. For example, doctors and nurses can be patronizing or insensitive, and hospital staff will sometimes order unnecessary tests just because patients are older.

Recently, my wife experienced first-hand what could easily be perceived as health care ageism. Her 98-year old mother, who is on oxygen, was gasping for air and was brought to a hospital emergency room, where my wife waited with her. After a quick assessment that the condition was not life threatening, hospital staff completed an entire battery of tests -- EKG, blood work, chest x-ray and COVID-19 test -- and then left the elderly woman laying on a stretcher in the hallway for hours. They even had to repeat the EKG and take more blood because of technical problems. Staff walked by her as if she was invisible. My wife had to ask for a pillow and a blanket because her mom was so uncomfortable. Maybe this same shoddy treatment would have been given to anyone in the emergency room (which of course is inexcusable), but one has to wonder if ageism played some role in it. The diagnosis was pneumonia, which the chest x-ray alone could have revealed.

Yale University professor Becca R. Levy, who conducted research on the impact of ageism on health care costs, tells NextAvenue, "During the pandemic, there were certainly issues that exacerbated ageism in health care, particularly in the long-term care setting — with the high number of deaths in the first months of the pandemic that were due, in part, to the inadequate protective equipment and inadequate protections given to the workers and the residents."

Unfortunately, health care ageism rears its ugly head so frequently that older patients may end up feeling inadequate or they blame themselves. According to Professor Levy, "Part of the reason it's so insidious is that people don't even realize that they're experiencing it and they tend to blame it on themselves instead of discrimination or the larger systemic problem of not getting the best possible health care for older people."

So why am I telling you all this? Very simply, because you and I are aging too. It won't be that long before we face ageism from our doctors, hospitals or other health care providers -- if we haven't already. Instead of accepting it, says Vanderberg, "we need to advocate for ourselves." While we don't have to be jerks about it, that means demanding the treatment we deserve from health care professionals. is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

New Book Shows How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"

An Aging Workforce Continues to Face Ageism

Krakenimages-8RXmc8pLX_I-unsplashExcuse me for being repetitive, but I'm writing about age discrimination in the workplace...again.

I recently wrote about the economic impact of age discrimination. Now I want to talk about the human cost. A research study jointly conducted by New York University and Stanford University revealed that younger workers are persistently prejudiced against older workers -- and the younger the workers are, the more ageist views they hold. In fact, the study found that workers who openly oppose racism and sexism in the workplace are still prejudiced against older workers.

Richard Eisenberg of NextAvenue asked Michael North, one of the researchers, some penetrating questions about the study. North expressed this disturbing takeaway from interviewing younger workers: "There's this sort of subtle tension where older adults are expected to step aside and get out of the way and stop creating this perceived logjam in the distribution of resources or jobs or positions of influence, so the younger generation can get their turn."

North said he believed that "ageism is socially condoned to a point where it's not uncommon for folks to overlook it as a prejudice." In a 2014 article he co-authored for Harvard Business Review, North wrote about four specific ways companies could adapt to an aging workforce:

  1. Flexible, half-retirement.
  2. Prioritizing older-worker skills in hiring and promotions.
  3. Creating new positions or adapting old ones.
  4. Changing workplace ergonomics.

According to the article, "Companies that make these changes have seen tangible improvements in retention and productivity, organizational culture, and the bottom line."

Despite these accommodations for a workforce that is aging, age discrimination in the workplace is widespread. A recent research study by Generation, a global employment nonprofit, cites some sobering statistics. As reported by Kerry Hannon for NextAvenue, "Employers view just 18% of age 45+ job seekers as having the right experience for their entry and intermediate level roles, according to the report. Only 15% are viewed as being a good 'cultural fit' with their team." Sadly, this contradicts reality, since when 45+ workers are actually hired, "87% of those employees perform as well, or better, than colleagues a decade younger."

This kind of workplace ageism takes a human toll: "Of those surveyed who were unemployed, 63% of 45+ job seekers have been out of work for more than a year vs. only 36% of job seekers 18 to 34."

Hannon spoke with Generation CEO Mona Mourshed, who was one of the report's researchers. Mourshed indicated that ageism was not just limited to any one country or any particular industry. "One of the most striking findings of this result is it's uniformly consistent across dramatically different countries," said Mourshed. "We surveyed seven countries —  large, small, emerging markets, culturally diverse — but this phenomenon is a hundred percent universal. Same pattern, same magnitude, from industrial to service professions, from skilled trades to tech jobs."

Mourshed's observations are worth noting. "It's so important that age is considered part of diversity, equity, and inclusion," said Mourshed. "We must have an intergenerational workforce and we should have processes for recruiting and for retention that enable that."

The research findings can be discouraging, but if you are a Boomer who wants to continue to work, you'll need to find ways to prove your value to prospective employers. Mourshed believes "many more aged forty-five-plus have the potential to do the job if only they can get in through the door."

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

Read about 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s! 

Boomers on FIRE

Mohamed-nohassi-UKX_DwNKXSA-unsplashThe title may sound like a bunch of older Americans in the Western part of the country fleeing current forest fires -- but this blog post is about a different kind of F-I-R-E: "Financial Independence, Retire Early." The FIRE movement gained traction with the under-50 set as a way to retire as early as possible by accumulating enough savings to fund a potential 50-year retirement. But the pandemic has cooled the interest in FIRE in one way and created a new class of adherents in another way.

One of the tenets often viewed as a cornerstone of retirement planning and part of the FIRE movement is the "4 percent rule." Here is a simple explanation of the rule from investment management firm Charles Schwab:

You add up all of your investments, and withdraw 4% of that total during your first year of retirement. In subsequent years, you adjust the dollar amount you withdraw to account for inflation. By following this formula, you should have a very high probability of not outliving your money during a 30-year retirement according to the rule.

This rule seems quite adequate for a 30-year retirement but much riskier for a 50-year retirement. According to mutual funds giant Vanguard, applying the 4 percent rule results in an 18 percent chance of running out of money at the end of thirty years, but there's a 64 percent of running out of money in fifty years. The fact is Boomers on FIRE could be more successful in sustaining their financial independence in retirement than younger generations on FIRE. Basically, if the 4 percent rule holds, the youngest Boomer at age 57 will probably not outlive her money in fifty years, but a 35-year old Millennial very well might.

A recent article in The New York Times suggests that, before the pandemic, Millennial FIRE enthusiasts aimed for frugality in an effort to retire as young as possible, but the pandemic is changing that thinking: "Now, most newcomers to the movement are less motivated by quitting and more interested in having choices — without sacrificing too many of life’s pleasures in the meantime. This objective also makes the movement more accessible; early retirement is just not possible for most Americans."

It turns out that the pandemic may have recalibrated the expectations of those younger workers who were on FIRE. Thirty-eight year old Jamila Souffrant of the website/podcast "Journey to Launch" told The New York Times, "“I think a lot more people would have stepped back from work during the pandemic if they had the means to do so, especially if they had kids stuck at home or didn’t feel safe at their jobs. Financial independence is a privileged endeavor, and it’s not realistic for most people — they’ve got mouths to feed, and they might not even be making a living wage."

Boomers, on the other hand, have generally seen their retirement funds balloon thanks to the recent bullish stock market. As I wrote in my last post, retirees are for the most part optimistic and resilient, even when they retire early. Millions of Boomers have left the workforce during the pandemic, maybe because they are confident their financial independence is solid and their money will outlive them. That's a whole lot of Boomers on FIRE.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

Read about 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!