Tackling Workplace Age Discrimination

Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash

Janine Vanderburg | Changing the Narrative

In 2018, a national study found that 56% of Americans who entered their fifties with stable employment were laid off or pushed out; only 10% ever recouped financially. A recent survey by AARP found that 78% of people between the ages of 40 and 65 have either seen or personally experienced age discrimination in the workplace.

This is no surprise to Coloradans aged 50 and over. Since starting Changing the Narrative, we’ve repeatedly heard: “That ageism you’re talking about? It has happened to my dad, my partner, and to me.” A study we conducted this summer bears out this personal testimony: Nearly 1/3 of Coloradans age 50+ reported that they had experienced age discrimination.

Workplace discrimination has negative impacts:

1. For older adults, our income is reduced dramatically when we are nearing retirement, making us less likely to meet our retirement savings goals.

2. Employers lose the benefits of intergenerational workforces, including greater creativity and problem-solving, increased productivity, and profitability.

3. The economy suffers. Workplace age discrimination costs the U. S. economy $850 billion annually.

Here are several concrete things we can do:

1. All of us can make the business case for hiring, training, and retaining older workers. Research shows that older workers are engaged, motivated to learn, and have strong communication skills. Research also shows that intergenerational teams are creative, have stronger problem-solving skills, and are more productive and profitable.

2. We can let businesses that we patronize know that we appreciate their hiring older workers.

3. We can advocate for workforce development centers to have employment and training programs tailored to older workers, and to ensure that stimulus dollars coming to Colorado are used to re-skill and up-skill older Coloradans who want and need to continue working.

4. We can argue for stronger laws, including eliminating high school graduation dates on job applications, and strengthening penalties for age discrimination. Currently, it is illegal to ask someone their age, but not their high school graduation date.

Together we create a climate in which older workers, local employers, and our overall economy can thrive.


Janine Vanderburg leads Changing the Narrative, a campaign to change the way people think, talk and act about aging and ageism. Learn more about age-friendly business practices at: https://changingthenarrativeco.org/age-friendly-intergenerational-workplaces-2/

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