Despite the significant life and work experiences that a growing number of older adults have to contribute to the workforce, pervasive ageism operates in overt and covert ways to discriminate against older workers in hiring and workplace practices. This article provides a current overview of definitions, prevalence, types, and effects of ageism in the U.S. workplace. For social workers counseling older adult victims of workplace ageism, this article discusses theories, foundational knowledge, and ongoing self-awareness and training needed for bias awareness. Counseling strategies and resources are highlighted, including coping and resilience strategies to counteract ageist stereotypes and discrimination, facilitate job-seeking support, and advocate for older workers by promoting awareness and serving as a resource for employers to reduce workplace ageism.
Margo A. Jackson
Retirement is a modest social institution that appeared in most industrialized nations near the start of the 20th century. The aim of retirement was to solve the societal dilemma of an increasingly aged labor force by moving older workers systematically out of their jobs so as to not cause them financial harm (Atchley, 1980, p. 264). Although retirement has been considered benign since its inception, the history of retirement indicates that it is one of the main progenitors of ageism in society today (Atchley, 1982, 1993; Haber & Gratton, 1994; McDonald, 2013; Walker, 1990). Retirement and its accompanying stereotypes have been used as a tool for the management of the size and composition of the labor force contingent on the dictums of current markets in any given historical era. Ever-changing ideologies about older adults that extend from negative to positive ageism have been utilized by business, government, the public, and the media to support whatever justification is required in a particular era, with little thought to the harm perpetrated on older adults. Unfortunately, society has subscribed to these justifications en masse, including older adults themselves. In this article the ageism embedded in retirement is examined to make what is implicit explicit to social work practitioners and policymakers in the field of aging.