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Aging Is Not A Disease

(June 28, 2006)  In slightly more than 100 of the world's 236 countries, the birth rate is insufficient to keep population at current levels. In those places, Population is declining with each passing moment. The average age in those countries is rising.

In many industrialized countries, the average life expectancy hits a new high each year. In the US, life expectancy is rapidly nearing 80. It has increased by over 65% since 1900.

Everything we know about life, aging, health and what we do when we're over 50 is wrong.

If you want to find statistics about life patterns after 50, you have to look in the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) databases. Apparently, the most interesting thing about turning 50 is that it is a symptom of an impending death. If you want to know how long you might live, you have to consider when people die. That's for sure. But aging is not a sickness; it's not a disease.

"Doc, Help me. I'm dying. I'm 50 and I've only got 30 years to live. I need some medicine."

Aging and dying are inter-related but the CDC's data on Death Rates and their underlying causes does not list age as a measured cause of death., But, the correlation stops close to that point. Just because a person is older doesn't mean that they are impaired, less productive or somehow otherwise disabled. Age is not a disability. It's not a cause of death. It's not an inherent indicator of much of anything.

The bias in our culture, however, has weighed heavily against older people. The notion that our organizations should be "age-friendly" to the "over 50" crowd is a new one. It's easier to act like age is a liability.

There's an underlying economic motive for this. Our business leaders often prefer to hire the young because they are somewhat less expensive. They also tend to be really naive about a range of things (including compensation). So, when it's time for a layoff, expect a natural round of age discrimination. Besides, firing an older person is likely to produce a bigger bang in the downsizing process.

While employment law protects anyone over 40 from a range of age discrimination, the culture itself marginalizes the older worker. The language to describe the problem (mature, seasoned, old) carries harsh judgment. People with experience are less likely to want to do something stupid just because the boss thinks it's a good idea. They are more likely to have opinions and want input. They will be more effective but not when controlled too heavily.

Our friends at RetirementJobs.com are actively changing the conversation about age in our culture. They are setting a profound example for socially responsible delivery of employment and financial related services. Not since Monster began its massive campaign to educate the public has an operation in our business worked so hard to make a difference.

We keep updating the blogroll. There are now 146 Recruiting related blogs.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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