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Chapter 6 Aging and Ageism

Social Problems in the News

“Still Working: Economy Forcing Retirees to Re-enter Workforce,” the headline said. The story featured four seniors, ranging in age from 66 to their eighties, in southern California who had retired several years ago but were now trying to get back into the labor force. Because of the faltering economy and rising costs, they were having trouble affording their retirement. They were also having trouble finding a job, in part because they lacked the computer skills that are virtually a necessity in today’s world to find and perform a job. One of the unemployed seniors was a retired warehouse worker who did not know how to fill out a job application online. He said, “To say I have computer skills—no, I don’t. But I can learn. I will do anything to get work.” An official in California’s Office on Aging indicated that employers who hire older people would be happy they did so: “You know the person’s going to come in and you know they’re going to accomplish something while they’re there. And, they are a wellspring of knowledge.”

Source: Barkas, 2011Barkas, S. (2011, September 5). Still working: Economy forcing retirees to re-enter workforce. The Desert Sun. Retrieved from http://www.mydesert.com.

The number of older Americans is growing rapidly. As this news story suggests, they have much to contribute to our society. Yet they also encounter various problems because of their advanced age. We appreciate our elderly but also consider them something of a burden. We also hold unfortunate stereotypes of them and seemingly view old age as something to be shunned. Television commercials and other advertisements extol the virtues of staying young by “washing away the gray” and by removing all facial wrinkles. In our youth-obsessed culture, older people seem to be second-class citizens. This chapter discusses views about aging and the ways in which old age is a source of inequality.