We’re diving into a topic many of us want to pretend is not happening, and yet we feel it more and more every day — ageism.
Yes, it’s everywhere, and when you factor in gender and race, it can become even more of an issue. But sometimes in regards to ageism, the call is coming from inside the house. That internalized ageism is what we’re tackling today; all the ways we count ourselves out as we get older.
But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are ways to avoid, or at least quiet, those loud, but false, voices in our heads. In this episode, you’ll learn some pretty simple, but hugely effective steps we can all take to combat the ageism that comes from within.
Ageism, prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age.
And it’s very real, especially in the workplace.
According to Zip Recruiter, Americans are working longer — in 2020, 13% of the workforce included those 55 and over. Now it’s almost 24%. The good news: it’s reported that job postings that invite retirees to apply more than doubled between 2016 and 2019.
But… older workers are still having difficulty finding a job, and 53% reported having experienced age discrimination at work. And while job postings don’t usually say things like “old people need not apply,” the language that is used isn’t too hard to decipher: calling for recent graduates, or no more than x number of years experience. It seems while 84% of employers surveyed find older workers just as capable, 45% expressed concern that older workers might lack tech skills they deem important.
If you’re a hiring manager reading this right now, I call BS. The grown-ass women I know are recording podcasts and videos, engaging on social media, and get excited about new tools that support productivity — we’re total tech nerds. But I digress.
In the same survey, 67% of employers said they had no preference when it comes to an older vs younger worker, but 25% said that they’d “choose a 30-year-old over a 60-year-old, if faced with equally qualified candidates.”
By the way, I’m currently working on an episode to support us in staying relevant and in demand in the workplace. So be sure to hit the favorite or follow button so you get alerted as soon as it’s published.
But the workplace is not the only place we face ageism.
When you combine ageism with sexism and racism, the consequences are compounded. According to HelpGuide.org, older women of color face age, race, and sex discrimination, not only in their personal lives, but in areas like housing and healthcare.
Let’s talk about gendered ageism — we see it all over the place. While men are often seen as more experienced and “distinguished,” gendered ageism can impact a woman’s professional growth, her physical health and her emotional wellbeing.
But The Harvard Business Review pointed out something interesting lately, while gendered ageism sits at the intersection of age and gender bias, there actually is “no right age” for professional women. Older women are often not seen as valuable or relevant in the way that male counterparts are, and are seen as outdated, harpy, strident, their voices discounted. But… younger women (including those who look young) are called pet names, patted on the head, and in the case of non-white women, presumed to be in a more junior position than they are. They’re told they don’t have the experience, and have to fight for credibility.
And what about those in the middle, specifically 40-60? In that same HBR article, they cited how some search committees chose not to hire women in their late forties because of “too much family responsibility and impending menopause.” Other committees declined to hire women in their fifties because they have “menopause-related issues and could be challenging to manage.” And still other committees said that “women in their fifties and sixties may not have ‘aged well’ and do not ‘look vital.” Yet the jobs were given to similarly aged men.
The Impact of Age Discrimination
So what is the impact of age bias and discrimination? According to HelpGuide.org, age bias can have a significant effect on mental and physical health, sense of self-worth, social life, and even our finances. Travel insurance and health insurance policies get more expensive. Oh and as we get older, we are more likely to become a target for scams and fraud.
It’s no wonder that all of this external ageism seeps into our subconscious and we begin to believe it ourselves. I remember a time when I was in my 20s and I would tease my boss, who was 44 at the time, about being old. Sure it was over two decades ago and we definitely behaved quite differently in the workplace — especially in the entertainment industry — but we’re brainwashed at a young age to value youth, even in ourselves. Especially in ourselves.
So let’s talk about internalized ageism. According to HelpGuide.org, one study found that older adults who engaged in self-directed ageism and perceived themselves as useless had shorter lifespans than those with positive self-perceptions. Self-directed ageism can also result in poorer health outcomes, including chronic conditions and short-term health issues. Ageism also appears to slow down recovery from physical ailments.
And ageism can lead to social isolation and loneliness. And loneliness has such far-reaching consequences that, according to a study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, the health impact is comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and can be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, depression, and cognitive decline.
So what can we do about it? Well, we know at this point of our lives that we can’t change other people’s behaviors — as much as we’ve probably tried over the years. But we can do the work to be more mindful about the messages we send — especially to ourselves. We can change the way we see ourselves and flip internalized ageism on its head.
It’s about not conforming to others’ expectations or shape shifting ourselves, trying to fit into someone else’s idea of who and what we should be. It’s about embracing our unique experiences, leaning into our strengths and interests, and refusing to stop learning, growing and adapting to the ever-changing world around us. Some talk about reinvention at this age. I see it more like innovation — we’re not starting over. We’re taking the foundation we’ve built and we’re improving upon it — consistently and often.
Let’s talk about some ways we can do that. Not all of the following examples will apply to you — there are plenty of things to choose from so take what works and toss the rest.
Top 8 Ways to Stop Aging Yourself Out
- Be open to change. This is #1 for a reason. I see women all the time declare they’re “too old” or uninterested in the world around us, as it is today. If you want to stay relevant — and frankly, interesting, learning how to adapt is key. This may include being open to current technology, music, or current events, and pop culture. Now you don’t have to become a Swiftie or keep up with the Kardashians, oh my God no, it is a good idea to not bury your head in the sand, especially if you want to be part of the conversation around the water cooler. Wait, do they even still have water coolers at work?
- Learn something new. Keep your mind active by learning new things. Try a new hobby, take a course, or pick up a book. The key is to stay curious.
- Listen to perspectives different from your own. I recently shared an episode where we talked about intergenerational friendships and mentorship. Connecting with millennials, or even Gen Z’ers will give you so much insight into how the world works for them. On the flip side, when you embrace your own experience, you could serve as a mentor to others — whether they are younger, or older. It goes both ways.
- Prioritize yourself. Move and fuel your body. I’m not talking about the latest diet trend or killing yourself in Crossfit. Take a walk, heck play pickleball (it’s America’s fastest growing sport you know), stretch, dance, have sex, just move. Eat some vegetables, take your vitamins, love yourself and your body — it’s the only one you get. Explore your vitality. Take time to relax, meditate if you’re moved to, but find activities that bring you joy. If you haven’t found one yet, today is the perfect day to try something new.
- Clean out the clutter. No, I don’t mean in your home (that was last week’s episode by the way and it was a good one). Get rid of the clutter and noise in your brain — the stuff that holds you back. The self talk that it’s too late or that you’re not capable. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Talk to yourself the way you’d encourage and support a friend. Recognize your worth and don’t you dare use your age as an excuse.
- Pursue your passions. Follow your interests, even if they change like the weather. Art, travel, entrepreneurship… having passion and enthusiasm for an activity can increase positive feelings, helping you feel more alive and relevant. Try it.
- Get involved. Whether it’s in your community, with a non profit or charity, make an effort to contribute. Volunteer to visit a senior, support a woman’s shelter, or teach young people a certain skill, there’s something out there for all of us.
- Be social. As I mentioned earlier, isolation and loneliness can have a devastating impact. Social connections can provide emotional support, keep you connected, and offer opportunities for personal growth. Whether you schedule a weekly walk or coffee with a friend, find in person events through sites like MeetUp, start a circle through organizations like LeanIn.org, or join an online Facebook group for those with similar interests, connection can make all the difference.
We have never been more experienced, knowledgable or capable than we are today. This is the perfect time for letting go of others’ expectations and assumptions and to birth — or rebirth — the person we want to become. And if we want to change who that is in 5 years, or six months, or tomorrow, it’s absolutely our prerogative to do so.
If you’re feeling as fired up as I am and ready to take charge of the rest of 2023, I want to help. I am leading an accountability group launching October 16th — picture this: a small group of grown-ass women coming together to support and uplift each other as we set and work toward achieving our goals. This time of year is when a lot of people hit the snooze button and think “I’ll get to it in January” but if you work toward your goals for even 10 minutes a day for the next 90 days, that’s 15 hours closer to living the life you want. Click here for more info. You deserve to start 2024 feeling empowered, successful and ready to take on the world.
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