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Fight Ageism
in the workplace

Are you a Late Bloomer?
by Jerry W. Bird

elyseOne of the many things I love about the Africans is that they revere age and constantly seek the advice of elders in the community. I hope they never change. That's seldom the case in North America, where the youth culture bombards us at every turn. But thinking young is being vital in mind, spirit and action, not merely emulating the young people in society.

The following item from our city's daily newspaper, the Vancouver Sun is by Rafe Mair, one of Canada's most popular open line radio broadcasters, and a former politician. Being almost a carbon copy of my own career and life history, I hope it may serve as an inspiration and /or a "wake up pill" for many of our readers around the world. For example, when was the last time you made an effort to learn a new skill? Something challenging and adventurous like skin diving on the Cape, rafting down the raging rivers of Ethiopia with my friend Maurizio Melloni of Addis Ababa, or canoeing on a crocodile infested river. To some water funpeople, learning to operate a computer is a daunting challenge - but it leads to a whole new world of discovery. How long has it been since you strapped on a pair of skis, or took the bicycle out for a spin. Have you ridden a horse lately, or tossed a football?

If you know or hear about a case of age discrimination in business, travel or in employment, e-mail:, or fax (604) 681-6595.

My 91 year old friend Elyse White of Harlem, New York is a prime example of someone who never misses a beat. She and I danced to our favorite, fast-moving Fats Domino tunes at Accra's Golden Tulip Hotel in Ghana. It was long after many of the gang (40-60 year olds) had turned in for the night. A few months later in Orlando, Florida, I watched her become an official Ashante Queen in full regalia, with the same pomp and ceremony as performed at Kumasi during a typical festival.

Elyse 'lives and loves to travel' and hasn't missed a single Africa Travel Association Annual Congress since the event began in 1976. Cape Town will be her twenty-sixth. She's still learning new skills and looking for new and different challenges - which we talk about frequently by e-mail. Her sign off name is 'Mama Safari,' which is a statement in itself.

Yes, there's so much to enjoy in life's journey, so one must be sure to seize the moment, for as the wise folks say, "learning is a lifelong experience." E-mail:


Excerpt from Rafe Mair's column ....

There's no doubt that my life can be easily divided into two parts
; the first 40 years or so,, the years the locusts ate, and from then until now a frenetic drive to catch up.

Why did this all happen? I think it was because when I turned 40, or thereabouts, I felt that I had wasted my life. I had played too much golf (by far), drunk too much whisky and played too much cards (ditto), and chased too many women (ditto again). I looked back and saw a barren stretch with tiny little occasional oases of accomplishment and was scared that I'd blown it.

Why am I telling you all this? First, because I think any reader has the right to know something about the author. Second, because I sense there may be others out there who think that because they haven't accomplished what they wanted by certain age they are doomed to miss the boat.

I have not really accomplished all that much. But I have, in the past 25 years, attained more of my potential than before. And that surely is what it's all about. Not very many of us will go right to the top, but we can do better - and if one is a late bloomer, it might help to know that you can do better even with a self imposed slow start.

How to beat “Ageism” and get a job
(Even if You are Slightly Over the Hill)

The Baby Boomers are aging, but at the same time they are not willing to go off to pasture the way earlier generations chose to. Today's 40, 50, 60 year olds want to remain productive. If you are concerned about how welcome you will be in the workplace as you add another candle on your cake this year, consider these ideas for staying in the employment game.

1. Shave years off your looks - get an evaluation from a salon and dress shop about your make up, hair and clothing. Or if you are a male, get an evaluation from a barbershop and a men's clothing store. You may be putting out signals that are not necessary and may shave years off yourself by looking as up to date as possible.

2. Downplay dates on your resume - go for a functional resume that highlights more of your accomplishments than your dates of hire: Yana Parker has some great suggestions for functional resumes on her Web site ( and in her books.

3. Continue to learn new skills - show your willingness to stay up to date by taking further training. If you are currently taking more classes, you will demonstrate your ability to be a life long learner.

4. Look for work through your contacts - Richard Bolles reminds us of the value of this in this interview with Fast Company: . You'll be apt to get a better reception if you meet potential employers through a referral network.

5. Be seen as an expert in your field - If you can be visible by writing or speaking, do so. The more you rise to the top of your field, the greater the chances that your age will become a non-issue. Look at management gurus such as Peter Drucker who is still going strong in old age. No one questions his age or his ability to do his work.

6. Stay physically fit - there is a distinction between biological age and chronological age. If you line up people who were born in the same year, you will see people who have aged gracefully and those who have not. Chances are those who look older are people who have not exercised continuously nor have been careful about their diets.

7. Transfer expertise from another field - if you have developed a reputation in one field such as marketing, look for other fields who can profit from your knowledge. What start up organizations would give their eyeteeth to have someone with your seasoned abilities on their team?

8. Seek professions where a bit of gray is revered rather than reviled - consultants are generally drawn from the ranks of "seasoned" people whereas computer programmers are often expected to be young and malleable. If you are changing careers especially, be aware that some fields are friendlier to older people.

9. Get to know younger blood - sometimes people become outmoded because they choose to spend their time solely with people from their own age cohort. This behavior can be very limiting. The wider the range of people with whom you spend time, the more receptive you will be to new ideas.

10. Embrace computer skills - let's face it - computers are here to stay. The more you know your way around them, the better. If you don't know all that you need to, demonstrate your willingness to learn more computer skills.

Copyright © 1999, by WorkLife Solutions, Inc., all rights reserved


Society for the Advancement of Travel
for the Handicapped and Mature

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