Christina’s post the other day about our 101-year old still-practicing-law colleague Murray Shusterman entitled “Are There Some Professions Where Being An Older Employee Is More Acceptable?” saluted Murray, and asked: “what is the key to establishing an age-blind culture where age is not a factor, young or old, as long as an employee is performing well?”
Comments are pouring in to us wishing Murray well, as exemplified by Johann Scheepers, our trusty South African commissioner and renaissance man with respect to employment law matters:
“This ‘superman’ is not about to ‘hang up his cape’. Smoke them Murray!”
Norma Ann Dawson, an attorney from the LA area:
“Way to go Murray! It’s good to know someone appreciates older workers.”
Other comments have taken Christina up on her invitation to a conversation about age.
Carlos Cortes, an 80-year old diversity lecturer and consultant in the LA area, notes that not every generalization about age is necessarily ageist, saying that there are some “age-based generalizations [which] are both valid and useful”:
“For me, at times the article misuses the word, “stereotype,” when at some points it should be using the word “generalization.” There is nothing wrong with generalizations — including age-based generalizations — as long as they are evidence-based and have not developed into the rigidity of stereotyping. That said, there are some specific instances in which age-based generalizations are useful. Here’s one example.
Although lifetime drivers’ licenses are issued in much of Europe, in most (maybe all) U.S. states there comes a time in which older drivers (for example, at age 70), must pass written and eyesight examinations (sometimes also driving exams) in order to renew their licenses, while younger folk can continue to renew them by mail. While this may be an extra burden for such seniors, I think it makes perfect sense considering the tendency of older people to experience a physical decline.
An obvious response to my example could be, “Then everybody should have to be tested at the time of license renewal. We ought to treat everybody alike.” Really? As a taxpayer, I would be opposed to such a profligate waste of scarce public resources, which I would rather see used for things like education. So even while recognizing the arbitrariness of age-based differential treatment involved in such statutes, I support them for the greater good of society, such as making the highways safer.
By the way, I am 80-years-old, continue to be active as a diversity consultant and public lecturer, and have had to jump through these extra hoops three times to renew my license, which I am happy to do. Repeating, there are situations in which age-based generalizations are both valid and useful. That is not stereotyping, merely recognizing generalizable tendencies and taking them into consideration when establishing policies.
This is not a defense of workplace age-based discrimination, merely a caution against jettisoning all age-based policies.”
Anyone else care to weigh in?