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The American Experience

The Older Worker

The American experience for those of us who are over 50 today is filled with apprehension, anxiety, and a feeling of frustration that our golden years won't be so golden. This is no more apparent than in the today's workforce. Since 2007 there has been over a 20% increase in the number of age discrimination suits that have gone through the courts. Instead of maintaining a work force that is experienced and knowledgeable business today are weeding out workers that are 50 and over at a rate unparalleled in our history. Take countries like Australia for example. This countries business climate is the exact opposite of what is transpiring here in the United States. There, as well as many other countries around the world when workers reach a certain age they are looked upon with more reverence and respect for they are the ones who have gained knowledge and experience that automatically comes with age. They are the ones who know what is needed and required with the ability to produce goods and services with the quality that ensures public and customer satisfaction. It is the older workers who contribute the most for the continued success and growth of any business.

If that is the case then why is it in the United States our workers even in their 40's are continually being eliminated from the work force? One of the biggest reasons is that our society has somehow manifested itself toward the illusion that youth and younger workers are more valuable than workers who reach a certain age. This illusion has been steadily become more apparent in our business community. Not only are more of our older workers being forced out of employment because of the current economic conditions; more and more business managements have been reluctant to keep those older workers because of their higher salaries. This is so apparent in the cost cutting mode that so many business are in today. The attitude now is why pay someone $100,000 per year say, where they could hire some younger person for $50,000 or less per year. In most cases this attitude in business only further reduces the ability of a business to maintain the quality of their products or service that is produced. This in turn is one of the reasons why there is such a slow growth in business today.

Another contributing major factor in the creation of the illusion of our youth culture is in the media and television advertisements and programs. They all are aimed and targeted for the youth and younger adults. There are so few programs and advertisements fashioned and promoted for our citizens of middle age and for the older Americans. Media advertising this past year alone has spent over $16 billion on TV adds marketing our youth and young adults. This is in comparison to only $6 Billion spent targeting our middle age and senior population. The advertising for the youth markets is mostly for consumables where the emphasis is on low nutritional brands and unhealthy food choices. It is no wonder that our youth and young adults have the highest rate of obesity of an age group of all the other industrialized countries.

Our culture in today's society has created the persona that only the youth and younger citizens can contribute to the overall expansion and quantity of any business. What is missing is that older workers have the experience which only comes through life experiences. Along with the knowledge that has to be incorporated into the work place to produce a higher quality in any product or service. This is the most essential component for any business to create the economic expansion needed for a thriving economy.

Most of what is happening to our older workers is out right age bias. To compound the already financial hardships when someone older is forced into the unemployment rolls is that the Supreme Court in it's 2009 decision has now made it so much more difficult to prove that age was indeed the major factor in eliminating older workers. All this to make room for a younger workforce and to save money but only for the short term. The unemployment rate for people 50 and over is at the highest it has been in over 60 years. The Age Discrimination Act of 1967 established the legal definition of age bias. As outlined in the ADEA prohibits the use of age as a factor in any employment decision or action whether it is in termination, advancement, pay, benefits, training recruiting, or selection. This Supreme Court ruling now negates the legal president that was passed by congress in 1967 with the Age Discrimination Act and now makes it extremely more difficult for any employee to file a grievance against an employer based on an employees age. Any worker now must prove that any action whether it is a dismissal or demotion was a direct result based on their age and not circumstantial as outlined in the original ADEA act of 1967.

This is not the first instance where the Supreme Court has purposely rebuked the laws that were passed by our Congress and put business concerns ahead of individual rights and freedoms. There is only a small window of opportunity for the majority displaced older workers to restore the original context of the ADEA so that the burden is not no unbearable for any older worker. They are already faced with additional stress and financial loss due to any employment action or termination.

Age discrimination like race or religion has no place in any aspect of our society. Each worker has to have the ability to age gracefully and slide comfortably into a financially secure retirement without having the stress and anxiety that is so common place today with people over 50. The American experience for all who are over 50 has to be one of grace, financial security, and a lifestyle that should be automatic by being a United States citizen.

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