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Breaking the age barrier: Public policy must change to combat age discrimination

To protect older individuals from age discrimination, there is a growing need for policies that promote age diversity in the workplace. It is unfortunate that ageist attitudes and stereotypes remain prevalent in many workplaces, making it difficult for older people to obtain and maintain employment. It is important to note that this has negative consequences not only for older workers themselves, but also for society. Age discrimination in the workplace requires public policy changes. 

Older workers face several challenges, including the perception of being less productive and capable than younger workers. There is no truth to this statement. As a matter of fact, many older workers have valuable skills, knowledge and experience to offer. It has been shown in studies that older workers are more reliable, have more experience, and are more loyal to their employers than their younger counterparts. An organization also may benefit from the work ethic of older employees, since they are more likely to have developed a strong work ethic over the course of their careers. 

Despite these benefits, older workers are often discriminated against during the hiring process. Most employers believe that older workers are less productive or more expensive to employ than younger workers. The bias can result in older workers being passed over for job opportunities, even if they are highly qualified. It is also possible that older workers may find it difficult to adapt to new technologies or new methods of doing things, which can further reinforce ageist attitudes. 

It is not uncommon for older workers to encounter discrimination at work, even when they are able to locate employment. It is possible, for example, that older workers will not be considered for promotions or will not be provided with opportunities for professional development. In addition, older workers may be bullied or harassed by younger coworkers who hold negative stereotypes about them. As a result of these experiences, the employee may feel demoralized and may experience reduced job satisfaction and productivity. 

Age discrimination in the workplace has adverse consequences that are not limited to older workers. Society suffers when older workers are excluded from the labor force. Older workers often possess valuable skills and knowledge that are in high demand. As a result of excluding them from the workforce, organizations miss out on important resources that could help them achieve greater success. Furthermore, older workers may become dependent on government benefits or other forms of assistance when forced to retire or when they’re simply unable to find employment. As a result, social safety net programs may be stressed, and younger taxpayers may be burdened with an increased tax burden. 

The need for public policy changes to address age discrimination at work is evident. It is possible for policymakers to address this issue in several ways. The implementation of policies that encourage the diversity of ages in the workplace would be an example. Incentives could be provided to employers who hire older workers or provide training and professional development opportunities to older workers as part of these policies. In addition, policymakers may consider implementing regulations prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their age. 

Policymakers also may wish to provide support to older workers who are seeking employment or transitioning into a new career. This may include national job training programs, mentoring opportunities, and other resources that can help older workers remain competitive in the job market. Policymakers may consider providing financial assistance to older workers who have lost their jobs or are having difficulty finding employment. 

A bill introduced last month by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, would protect senior workers from workplace discrimination. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA) restores safety nets for older workers. It is proposed that POWADA would restore critical protections in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and make it easier for employees to prove that they have been discriminated against because of their age in the workplace. Workers who allege age discrimination are currently required to meet a much higher burden of proof than workers who allege other forms of workplace discrimination. 

Finally, policymakers may take steps to address ageist attitudes and stereotypes at work. A public education campaign aimed at dispelling myths about older workers could be undertaken. As part of the initiative, it may be necessary to promote intergenerational collaboration and teamwork in the workplace, which may help to break down barriers between different age groups within an organization. 

Age discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue that requires a change in public policy. Ageist attitudes and stereotypes must be addressed in order to ensure that older workers have a positive role in society. It is possible to create a more inclusive and productive workforce by introducing policies that promote age diversity in the workforce, provide support for older workers, and address ageist attitudes and stereotypes. 

Michael Pessman is a gerontologist by training and a community engagement coordinator for Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He is a Public Voices fellow through the Op-Ed Project. Follow him on Twitter @agernation

Tags age discrimination Ageism older Americans

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