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How do you cope with ageist remarks in the workplace?

ageism in workplace imageArticle by Ceri Wheeldon

I received the following email from a reader regarding ageism at work. I’m sharing this to see if others have experienced similar situations and if so, how they have dealt with the situation:

“ I’ve recently turned 50 and have just discovered your website and follow you on Twitter. I find your articles very motivational and interesting. They help to give me confidence and inspiration as I enter the next phase of my life.

One subject I’m very interested in is ageism in the workplace, particularly around derogatory comments made towards older people in the workplace, in the name of so called humour or misguided endearment. Older people seem to be fair game as the butt of jokes around old age and it’s been like this for as long as I can remember.

Ageism hurts and robs people of their self worth

In my experience, younger people are the worst offenders and seem to expect older people to behave in a certain way (act their age). If they don’t ‘conform’ to the stereotypical image driven by a youth centric culture, they are slapped down by being ridiculed, and usually in front of an audience for greater effect. Why don’t people realise that ageism can hurt feelings and rob people of their confidence, dignity and feeling of self worth? Older people are entitled to more respect. They’ve been on this earth for many years and have a lot to offer as a work colleague, mentor, friend, confident and role model.

Sexism, racism and homophobia are not tolerated in the workplace, so why should we tolerate ageism? How do older people stand up to ageist jokes in the workplace without being ridiculed in the process?”

What experience/advice can you share?



Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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  1. Jo Carroll

    April 26, 2012

    It’s a huge issue.

    I was working with a writing group recently, and we were talking about a book in which two older women disagreed – and a young women in the group referred to ‘2 old biddies having a scrap’ – I just asked how old you have to be to be a biddy? Which at least made her think.

    But it’s difficult – I suspect we made the same assumptions about older people when we were their age, and were equally insensitive. It’s only by addressing it, firmly but without getting angry, that things will begin to change. Most young people are aware of discrimination against gay and lesbian people, or those with disabilities, or people of colour – so they are capable of empathy. They just struggle to extend it to us!

    (And, maybe, it is part of growing up – to think that the generations ahead of you got it all wrong!)

    • Ceri Wheeldon

      April 27, 2012

      So well put Jo! I can feel a whole new post coming on – at what age will become old biddies! 🙂

  2. Crystal

    August 22, 2014

    I just got a comment from a male co-worker, himself pushing 60 or better, with me being in my middle 50s, that I haven’t seen for awhile, he says, “Oh, you ARE still alive!” I tell you it ruined the rest of my day, for some reason, as I couldn’t really think of a smart comeback at the time as I was so shocked…

    I feel almost sometimes that I should retire, even though I can’t really afford to yet, as I get so sick of comments and especially younger people the way they treat you, like you have nothing to offer or your views on everything are so outdated. I pride myself on keeping up with everything that goes on…

    I get so depressed about the whole situation, that I usually just stay to myself. Anyway, thanks for letting me vent!!

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