THE BLOG

Trumpeting The Success Of The Older Worker

18/11/2016 13:30

Though most other "isms" were piled on the ballot scales at some point in the USA Presidential election, ageism never seemed much of a factor with the electorate. Perhaps this was because both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were well beyond what we still laughingly call, "normal retirement age".

Actually, at 70 Trump is the oldest person ever to be elected as President and at 69, had Hillary Clinton pulled it off, she would have been the second oldest winner as well as the first female to hold the highest office.

In an election debate in 1984, when asked whether at 73 (by the end of his first term) he would be too old to hold office, Ronald Reagan famously quipped, "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."

Nice one Ronald! As I have observed, ageism doesn't seem to be a problem when it comes to being chosen for the most powerful job in the world.

But America is America and could we say the same for the UK? We seem to be more age biased than in the USA, where age can sometimes be an advantage.

(Remember Sir Menzies Campbell, ousted as leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2007 amidst claims of ageism - supported by Age UK? He was 66 at the time - four years younger than Donald Trump today.)

In promoting the image of older workers, I have used success stories wherever I find them. One of my favourites is Nick Page, who started working again as a "rookie cop" in Los Angeles at the age of 63, when here in the UK we saw raising the normal police retirement age to 60 in 2013, as a step forward.

Pictures and case studies of older people reaching the heights in various roles have found their way into my conference speeches, showing the spectacular advantages of older workers.

Will President Trump join them? He hardly needs my modest publicity, but if two people pushing or passing 70 can withstand the rigours of an exhausting election campaign, what more does one need to say?

But talking of blowing trumpets (groan!) a warm welcome is in order for Andy Briggs, the British Government's newly appointed Older Workers' Business Champion. He has been sounding off stoutly on our behalf, stating in effect, that ageism is ubiquitous in the workplace. (He is surely right about this.)

Among other encouraging insights, reported in a recent interview in The Times, he comments,
"In my experience innovation and creativity are not age related. Some people are innovative and creative and some are not, regardless of their age." He is surely right.

In my "brilliant careers of older workers gallery", I will be adding Glenda Jackson, who stood down as a Member of Parliament after 23 years and is now performing superbly as King Lear at the Old Vic at the age of 80.

I like Briggs's interview comment, "Just as there are resources invested in younger people with coaching and career development and similarly when women return from career breaks, companies should invest in their older staff and give them midlife career counselling." These are all aims that TAEN has been pressing for some years, going back to our "Challenging Age" project, well over a decade ago.

We have some great tunes in our clarions for the older worker - but how often have we have heard them in the hit parade of business priorities? It is good that some employers, as well as Government, are hitting the same chords, but blowing louder and harder so that everyone gets in the mood and catches the rhythm is what we really need.

Comment: chris.ball@shaw-trust.org.uk
@taen_uk @crystal_balls @shawtrust

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