By Kent Mulkey

The way I see it, there is about a 20-year gap in a person’s life from when they are most devalued and dismissed to when they suddenly become valuable and wanted again. Let me explain.

You may know that ageism shows up in the workplace around age 50 for the average worker. Employees are fired, laid off, jobs are eliminated, and companies do the bulk of it under the guise of downsizing, only to bring in workers 20 years younger to fill the gaps. Now let me be clear that younger workers, millennials, amaze me. My three kids are millennials and their drive, creativity, “I can never fail” mentality blows my mind.

The message to the older employee, albeit perhaps unintentionally, is that you are of no use to the company any longer. Have any of you tried to get back in the workforce after age 55? I don’t recommend it. Companies appear to have biases toward older workers that label them as slower, not up to date with trends in business, and certainly not likely or able to stay around for very long. Of course, all of these are misguided assumptions.

Then, at age 75, the world wakes up and celebrates all that older adults have to offer the world! Overnight they become “smart” again, vibrant, relevant, deserving of recognition and celebration, all of which are spot on! My jaded side says that senior communities would do just about anything to get these folks to move in as occupancy is low in many markets around the country.

So, what happened to the 20 years between age 55 and age 75? Laid off at 55. Recruited hard at 75. In talking with a host of people 55+ here are some of the “ventures” they try before it’s time to move to a retirement community.

    1. Keep a hook in the water and hope a company out there will bite with a job offer or even an interview!
    2. Go fishing
    3. Work at Trader Joe’s
    4. Golf (which seems to interest people for about two weeks)
    5. Become an Uber driver (I did)
    6. Volunteer – which taps into one’s need to give back to society and future generations
    7. Open a handyman business – I had a 60+ guy fix my sink who could not find work any other way

Out of sight, out of mind . . . until it is time to consider retirement living! OK, so maybe it is not that cut and dried, but it does make for some interesting consideration. Have you ever known a senior living company that marginalized employees at age 55 only to tell them to call back in 20 years and see if they have a spot for them to live?

I don’t think so, but always invite them back. To live, volunteer, and in some way join your community.