‘Shut out, forced out & overlooked’ Ageism concerns as over 55s feel ‘forced to retire’

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Older workers are continuing to navigate the job market, and with the state pension age increasing, this is likely to become even more of a societal norm. However, many have spoken of their experiences of feeling shut out and overlooked within the workplace, and forced out of employment opportunities. A study released today by organisation 55/Redefined in collaboration with UK charity, ProAge, has demonstrated the extent of the problem.

More than two thirds of over-55s asked said they feel the job market is closed to them.

This is despite one in four stating they wish to continue to work into their 80s.

The research also showed some 24 percent of over 55s felt forced to retire before they wanted to.

For those who already have a firm footing in the workplace, though, challenges do not appear to alleviate.

Amongst currently employed over 55s, almost two thirds communicated they were not in receipt of leadership training, while a third said they have lost interest in their job due to a lack of development opportunities.

However, the study also laid bare rampant discrimination many state is present within a work setting.

Only 24 percent of leaders in HR aged 25 to 30-years-old were “very” willing or motivated to recruit workers in the 55 to 75 age category.

This is a stark contrast to the 63 percent of older HR leaders aged 46 to 50.

Lyndsey Simpson, founder and CEO at 55/Redefined, said: “Our research reveals over 55s want to work and progress, but feel shut out, forced out, or overlooked when it comes to their later life careers.

“Ageism is clearly still a reality for many. At a time when we are all living and working longer, it is in all our interests to stamp out this unfair and unacceptable discrimination.

“Worryingly, our study found age discrimination is being perpetuated by people that control HR policy and standards.

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“This could perhaps be an unintended consequence of focusing exclusively on other protected diversity and inclusion characteristics.

“HR leaders and CEOs must address this issue urgently, realising the talent and ambitions of older people – bringing age bias in the workplace to an end.”

Ms Simpson has said the under 55 working age population is set to shrink by approximately 20 percent by 2050 in western countries.

When coupled with the impact of the pandemic, there could be a significant shortfall observed in the workplace.

Despite this, however, there is an ageing population, and “forward-thinking” firms have been encouraged to obliterate ageism to ensure the value of older workers both now and in the future. 

Challenges with ageism were faced by Siobhan Daniels, a 62-year-old woman originally from Leeds, Yorkshire, who is now retired.

Ms Daniels worked for 30 years as a presenter, reporter and producer, but stated she felt bullied at work and faced ageism in her fifties.

She said: “I was sidelined when it came to big projects that I had previously been involved in and the work was given to far younger more inexperienced members of staff, who I then had to guide through what they were doing.

“I was treated with disrespect in news meetings by my boss in front of younger members of staff, who then in turn behaved badly towards me to court favour with the bosses. It was a recognised subtle way of forcing older women out of the workforce.

“At that time I was also going through the menopause and that left me with no fight in me to challenge what was happening. When I look back I am angry that I let my bosses treat me the way they did. I felt suicidal at one point and had to take time off with stress. 

“That is why I am fighting now to make sure no other women are made to feel the way I felt at work. I left before I should have because I could no longer bear the way I was being treated.”

Ms Daniels is now retired, having sold her flat and most of her possessions, and purchasing a motorhome where she now travels Great Britain, championing positive ageing and challenging ageist stereotypes through her blog.

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Unfortunately though, ageism was also an experience shared by 75-year-old retiree, Ron Davies.

A former management consultant, Mr Davies said he had felt discriminated against as attitudes became negative towards people in their early 50s.

He added: “In order to stay ahead I used hair dye to dent the appearance of age and certainly never put my date of birth on my CV, or my photograph.

“I also realised further qualifications were needed to add further gravitas and put me ahead of the younger competition, so I spent five years studying for an MBA with the Open University – while consulting.”

Mr Davies described the ageism he faced at age 57 while working in a contracting role for a bank.

While sitting next to colleagues who were discussing CVs, he noted the conversation being dismissive towards a 56-year-old person who was considered “far too old” when looking for a job in IT.

Mr Davies concluded: “I was the last man standing on that project, in spite of being older than they would have thought appropriate for a contractor! This said, in the end, it mattered more what I did and achieved more than my age.”

As a result, then, businesses are being encouraged to do more in order to support their older workers.

Tackling age-based discrimination, it has been said, will be vital to ensure an inclusive workforce. 

Dominic John, Trustee at ProAge, also commented on the matter, and said: “Older people, with so much to offer, still feel underinvested in and overlooked in the workplace.

“Businesses must be more age aware; stamping out discrimination and making themselves an attractive employer for older workers to tackle talent shortages, and unlock huge economic benefit of this driven and valuable workforce.”

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