older-worker.jpgThe U.S. workforce is getting older. We all knew it was going to happen. We’ve all been writing and reading about it for years.

So why the hell is no one ready for it?

This week, the business team at MSNBC.com unveils a series of stories about how the workforce is graying, and more Americans are going to work past age 65 because most aren’t able to afford retirement.

From MSNBC.com’s John Schoen:

With their nest eggs in tatters, the stock market in the doldrums and time running out, many older Americans are resigning themselves to Plan C: simply working much later in life.

I wrote a piece due out later this week uncovering what Corporate America has done to prepare for the onslaught of mature employees. The answer: not much.

During my research I got the feeling that most employers, employees and even senior citizen advocates think an increase in older workers at the office, factory, or warehouse, is going to have little impact on the workplace. “65 is the new 55,” was pretty much the mentality.

But unfortunately folks, it’s going to take more than a couple of butt and face lifts to help aging workers punch the clock the way they did in their 30s and 40s. From office jobs to jobs in hospital wards, changes are going to have to be made to accommodate the growing number of employees who are also in their golden years. (I don’t know about you guys, but my back is already going and I haven’t even hit 50.)

On the flip side, is thinking a 50-plus worker can’t pull their weight. Lots of job seekers write me about how they think they were bypassed for gigs just because of their age even though they could handle the workload just fine. If they can handle the work, they should get the job.

We’re just going to have to get used to old people, whether they make use uncomfortable or not.

One of the first emails I got after I put out word that I was working on the mature worker story was from Dr. Payman Simoni, a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon:

THE SIMONI “WIDE AWAKE” FACE LIFT: Can be done in 1 hour.facelift.jpg

This is how our society views our elders. With little respect.

Instead of holding up individuals as they age, we have and will continue to tear them down. Instead of seeing the wrinkles and gray hair as a sign they’ve lived a rich life and can teach us something, we view aging with contempt. Instead of using their knowledge and experience for the betterment of society, we have already begun to cast them aside to a virtual workplace wasteland, if we hire or keep them on at all.

The discrimination charges filed by workers 55 and older is skyrocketing, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and there is little sign that things will get better for mature employees, especially in this economic environment.

It’s time for employers and employees to realize what a valuable resource they have in older workers; and it’s also time for workers as they age to respect themselves and stop making excuses for growing old.

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