Not long ago, as I was reading through my comments and updates on LinkedIn, I came across a commentary by an executive.
I am not going to tell you that I remember who he was, but I do remember what he wrote.
His comment came to something like this:
“In a world where people and experience are being discarded by the wayside, I am proud to say that our company, defying all odds, decided after much consideration to hire a new manager who happens to be 45 years of age, despite strong competition from younger professionals. We are proud to say that we have pushed back on age barriers and have shown the openness of our organization.”
Below, following that remark, there was a long list of a hundred or so comments (it may be more by now) basically, and on a grading scale, asking him if he was just kidding, all the way to as close to a blatant insult as Linkedin will allow on its website.
So much for showing openness and expecting gratitude.
Mind you, I am not going to go through the histrionics of anger here (nor did I do it then). In fact, I must say I did write a thoughtful and kind response -at least compared to most other comments-, about the relativity of age concepts which, I hope, was well taken by the author.
The issue, I feel, goes well beyond his comment. This little note is about a real concern in a world where we are trying to breakdown all those barriers that have made our society more intolerant and less agreeable to all.
And even though we are still plowing through many other deep inequalities, it is about time that we confirm that the next pushback will have to do with a common concern to all -men and women-.
It is obviously, age discrimination. That is the next great battle and it concerns one hundred percent of all people (I said all, not old) on the planet.
We can see it everywhere. No matter what you do.
There is a very clear hung-up on chronological age that constantly throws years of life well spent, and investments by companies and individuals on learning and experience (the kind of investment which any new company could never afford), and still tries to place all of that effort and capabilities on a bench close to a bunch of pigeons as if we were in the 1940s.
This is particularly absurd when you compare our aging population. We are not living in the eighteen hundreds where life expectancy was around 40 years of age (Mr. 45-year-old manager possibly would have been pushing up daisies then). Not even the 1950s, when the world´s average life expectancy had climbed to the amazing number of… 48 years.
In 2018, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) put average life expectancy of 80.3, while there are countries like France, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Spain and Italy (just to mention a few) where average life expectancy is well over 82.
What is most important, these are people who are active and involved and do not look like the little old lady who sold apples from Snow White (whom by the way, may have been about 37 at that time).
My great grandmother, Louise, was a French woman who came all the way to Argentina to end up marrying a blue-eyed Italian from Pinerolo (which is about 600 miles away from where she had come from). Photographs show her as a little and cute old lady at 52.
As a contrast, my engineer father, at 94, is still going to work at the office 4 times a week, and just told me that he has a new project for a technologically advanced product, and he must visit a couple of laboratories this weekend to decide how to follow up on the process.
While sometimes it is still the case that chronological and biological age will coincide, it is more and more common to see that they do not. Evolution is a wonderful thing, and as population gets older in chronological age and younger in biological age, it may be the time now -as we evolve as societies who are looking to advance- to take advantage of this wonderful byproduct of our time and always have wiser people around us (and I can tell you, there are plenty of them).
The common response would be that older people are not up-to-date and cannot handle the pressure. Yet, a fact we all know is that most 30-year-olds are not fully up-to-date either and that most of us have handled three lifetimes of work pressure by 45.
The truth is that wisdom is not merely a synonym of experience, it goes way beyond that. It is also the incredible gift of being able to predict the future (or at the very least, many future events) simply because these are people who have seen many of these events before.
This ability gives organizations the possibility of avoiding the repetition of other’s past mistakes. To put it simply, it gives them a good chance to surge ahead of the competition by jumping over many common hurdles. But older people (we´ll define them as over 45 just to make the person who kicked off this commentary happy) have more than that to give. They can link past, present, and future because they have been in two of those -and intend to be there for the third one-. They provide deep knowledge and the confidence of having fought many hard battles, while they are also able to tell the story -and point out the lessons- with plenty of detail.
This may be then, the time to start thinking -and acting- on how we can change the present and improve the future. As any “old guy -or girl- over 45” will know, we are not only here to stay. We are here to make a hell of a difference. And we are the perfect complement to any technology-based company and I would add, to any organization that wants to stay alive, and grow. We could say that we are mostly a big chunk of the heart, soul, and conscience of an evolving society.
So people, get ready.
Because we too, here we come!
(Originally published as an article on Linkedin on 2/21/2019)
Until next time
©2019 by Ignacio Alperin Bruvera