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New AARP Survey on Age Discrimination Shows 61 Percent of Older Workers Have Experienced It Firsthand

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Pick up almost any retirement-related publication these days and there’s bound to be an article about how today’s boomers plan to work well past what used to be called “retirement age.” Experts say that workers today, either out of preference or necessity, expect to work at least to age 70 or even longer, but they might also face more age discrimination as they work longer.

Age Discrimination “Widespread”

At least, that’s the plan – but will these workers be able to stay in the saddle as long as they hope to? A growing body of research seems to show that the answer for many is no: the desire to work to age 70 or beyond is often thwarted by the harsh realities of today’s workplace. As this very recent article on the NextAvenue website seems to indicate, part of the reason for the challenge senior workers face on the job could be the unexpected prevalence of age discrimination. A new AARP survey has revealed that biased attitudes against working seniors are extremely common and that a majority of older workers have experienced it personally.

“The vast majority of Americans who work into in their 50s, 60s and beyond need to keep making money as they grow older,” says the NextAvenue article, “but encounter widespread age discrimination in job hunts and at the workplace, a new AARP survey has found.” AARP surveyed nearly 4,000 workers in the 45-plus age group, all of whom were either working (full-time or part-time) or job-hunting. At least 90 percent of those surveys believe that age discrimination on the job is common, and more than 60 percent have experienced it personally. “Women are more likely than men to have seen or experienced age discrimination, according to the survey. More than three quarters of African-American respondents, 60 percent of Latinos and 59 percent of whites reported seeing or experiencing it,” NextAvenue reports.

Examples of Age Bias

“Older workers want to work, they’re ready to work and they need to work,” AARP executive Susan Weinstock told NextAvenue. “They should have the opportunity to be judged on their merits, rather than their age.” But, the article states, “the survey results strongly suggest older job applicants routinely are denied that opportunity.” According to the survey, among workers over 40, about 30 percent claim to have experienced at least one of the following examples of unfair workplace treatment, and about one in six say they’ve been victim of two or more:

  • Not getting hired for a job they applied for because of their age
  • Hearing negative remarks related to their older age from a colleague
  • Being passed up for a chance to get ahead because of their age
  • Hearing negative remarks related to their older age from a supervisor
  • Being laid off, fired or forced out of job because of their age
  • Being denied access to training or professional development opportunities because of their age.

Fears Seem Justified

During the past two years, 44 percent of survey respondents applying for new positions say they’ve been asked for age-related data including birthdate and graduation years from high school or college. This sort of information can easily be used to discourage older workers from applying and to reject candidates based on age, which is specifically prohibited under the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 (summarized here).  Age bias not only permeates the hiring process, it also makes workers especially fearful if they should lose their jobs. “About one third of the survey respondents said they doubted they’d be able to quickly land another job if theirs was eliminated,” reports NextAvenue. About half of them blamed age discrimination, and they may be right. “Government data shows that nearly one third of workers 55 and older who lose their jobs are unemployed a financially-dangerous six months or more. By contrast, just 18 percent of those ages 16 to 54 are out of work similar periods.”

In researching the data on age discrimination, we found this page of data on the website of the EEOC (the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). There were more than 18,300 charges of age discrimination filed with the EEOC during the 2017 fiscal year, resulting in more than $90 million in settlements (not counting those cases litigated in court). Interestingly, this appears to be the lowest number of EEOC complaints since before the Great Recession of the last decade. Complaints of age discrimination filed with the EEOC peaked in 2008 at nearly 25,000, so it does appear that the volume of complaints mirrors the health of the economy: the more robust the job market, the lower the prevalence of age discrimination. We’ll let the experts sort that one out.

Job Loss Doesn’t Have to be Devastating

Here at AgingOptions we talk with people all the time who have found themselves unexpectedly unemployed, years before they had planned to retire. The effects can be jarring, emotionally and financially – but with careful planning and preparation, job loss doesn’t have to derail your retirement future. We advocate an approach to retirement planning that is unique in its multi-faceted strategy, weaving together all the key elements of your retirement safety net: financial affairs, legal protection, medical coverage, housing choices, and family communication. Aging Options calls this a LifePlan, partly because this kind of planning can keep you from having your future life knocked off course by the unexpected. We help you plan every aspect of retirement in such a way that your LifePlan becomes the blueprint that will allow you to build a secure and fruitful retirement, the kind you’ve always hoped for.

We invite you to invest just a few hours and find out more at a free AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar. If you’ll visit our Live Events page, you’ll find a calendar of upcoming seminars in locations throughout the region: simply register online for the date of your choice, or contact us for assistance. You’ll be joined by a group of people just like yourself for an enjoyable and fast-paced session with Rajiv Nagaich. We know you’ll be glad you came.

Don’t let job loss or other unexpected events take the wind out of your retirement sales. Come to a LifePlanning Seminar and get ready for whatever life throws your way. Age on!

(originally reported at


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