Recently I took a temp assignment at the County Registrar's office. While there I had the opportunity to work with two older women, probably in their late 60’s and early 70’s. We were grouped together during training and because I was the younger of the two, I sat and listened as they talked about the hardships they faced trying to secure employment. They shared how the recruiter’s faces would deflate when they finally met. How when applying driving positions they'd fail the physical test because they were unable to board the bus as fast as the position required. They told of how their disability benefits were growing less and less each year and disclosed the difficulties they faced applying for their retirement. I listened to story after story of how they’d been impacted by ageism.
After they finished, they looked as if it were my time to chime in, to which I expressed that it was so good that they’d found this opportunity because it was definitely something they could excel in; seeing as how it was only data entry. I even told them about a seasonal work-from-home position that welcomed seniors should this assignment not pan out. They both grinned as I could tell that I had somehow endeared myself to them. If you know me then you know that I absolutely adore my elders. I was raised by my maternal grandparents so from an early age I have had an affinity for older people. So while I was there, I made sure to pay attention and do whatever I could.
Soon after I begin to notice how they used their seniority. For example, one would ask question after question. Though there was a degree of detail to the assignment, many of her questions were pawns. Meaning, she used them to gain access. To start trivial conversations. To talk about things not related to the job. They were gateway questions. Tools she used to politic. On one hand I could see why she did, but on the other hand I saw how it was negatively affecting her. As opposed to being the lady who asked a lot of questions, because of her age, she became the older woman who couldn’t keep up. And though she was very sophisticated, she didn’t know how to translate that sophistication (game) and miscalculated the fact that her age was a factor.
The other older woman sat next to me, so I had the pleasure of seeing her modus operandi up close. She moved very slowly which is what you’re supposed to do when you're that age, but because I was so close, I saw how agile she really was. When called upon, she’d pretend she couldn’t hear which is a tactic some use to gain an advantage, ensure honesty or to gain sympathy. In this environment, neither was needed so it just came across as her being the old lady who couldn’t hear which she used to her advantage because while the other clerks were called upon to do more work, the supervisors would get so frustrated at having to repeat her name and/or instructions, that they eventually stop calling on her. To the untrained eye, it would seem as if this was harmless. But the fact that she took the assignment to make ends meet meant that her performance was hurting her chances of possibly being considered for a permanent position which would mean she’d have to get back on the ageism hamster wheel.
Why did I write this? Because as you and I approach retirement, we need to be mindful that we don’t abuse it. Meaning, don’t play deaf when you have perfect hearing for the purpose of getting out of work only to gripe about being unable to a job later on. Don’t act like you’re having a senior moment because you don’t want to do something. Not saying that there aren’t older people who genuinely deal with these issues because there are. But don’t use your age to your advantage on one hand only to complain about it with the other. The Bible says that God promised us 120 years which means technically they’re middle age. They still have a lot of life to live if they’ll stop abusing their seniority.
Pray this with me: Heavenly Father, please forgive when I’ve used my age to my advantage. When I took liberties I should not have taken. Lord help me to grow old and die young at an old age. In Jesus’ name.
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