Article by Ceri Wheeldon
I have to admit to being a bit taken aback over the weekend when I saw headlines suggesting that the over 50s may be subject to increased restrictions in order to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus. Living alone and going through lockdown in total isolation, the prospect of repeating when I have been diligent in observing social distancing , mask wearing hand washing etc sent me into a bit of a panic – to say the least!
It appears that this could be viewed a fair compromise in order to reopen all schools.
There are a number of issues I have with this.
I have spent the last eleven years fighting ageism generally, and ageism in the workplace specifically. To suddenly have ‘over 50s’ divided from the rest of the population seems incredibly ageist and takes us many steps backwards …and in terms of getting the economy moving the numbers don’t add up either.
More than 25 million in the UK are over 50
More than 25 million of the UK population are over 50, 10 million are still in employment. We represent 37% of the overall population but nearly half of the adult population. The over 50s hold 80% of the UKs wealth and their spending power has been increasing year on year. To consider placing us effectively under house arrest would be a disaster on many levels.
And if the headlines regarding this are based on erroneous information, then it is totally irresponsible journalism. It is divisive, increases ageism, and potentially feeds bias both conscious and unconscious in the workplace. In what is becoming an increasingly competitive job market, we do not want to provide employers with a reason to legitimately discriminate against job seekers over 50.
The over 50s are vital to this country’s overall dynamic and economy. At 50 most are not even halfway through their adult life – and with the increase in state pension age still have perhaps 40% of their working lives ahead of them.
We all know that the virus needs to be contained, but there are so many other tools available, not least enforcing existing social distancing rules ( which individuals of all generations appear to be ignoring). If large numbers congregate in pubs without observing social distancing rules surely an easy answer would to be to remove the venue’s license for not enforcing them. It would certainly provide pub landlords with an incentive to restrict numbers and enforce distancing. It might not be popular but close the busy beaches or at least manage numbers – according to friends in France they are periodically closing beaches to the public to limit numbers there.
Stress individual accountability for everyone – we can all play our part. We may not enjoy having restrictions on our personal freedom, but surely it is better that we all support an element of compromise in our daily lives to at least enjoy some level of social – and also economic- interaction.
Every negative age related headline (even if based on false information) is damaging.
We have to stand up and stress the value the over 50s bring – on all levels.