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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

I am not my age

Feb 27, 2023 10:00AM ● By Noah LeVia

I am a senior.

No, according to employment counselors, that’s the wrong description of me. Euphemistically, according to the state workforce connection folks, “mature worker,” is what I should write in my cover letter to hiring managers and recruiters.

I might as well write I have a terribly infectious virus.

Yes, I am indeed a senior, which still surprises me. I’m not certain when I crossed that line from adult to senior, but it seems that the corporate world may have drawn the line at age 50. Certainly at age 60. By 70, the line becomes a wall.

There seem to be precious few doors in that wall.

In 2011, I was also a senior. However, I was employed in an office with coworkers who spanned a wide age range. I began working in that office in 2003 when I was a “younger senior,” but I was still a senior when hired.

In 2008, the layoffs began. I survived three. Then, in 2011, came the big one! Hundreds, if not thousands, of us were laid off throughout the U.S. and Canada. If there was a good thing, it was that I knew the layoff was not due to age.

Naively, I was unconcerned about finding another job quickly. I updated my skills with help from the local workforce center, and I took advantage of job hunting workshops. I was blithely confident that, given my years of experience, advanced degree and updated computer skills, I would land a job with no problem.

I sent out tailored resumes and cover letters, and was invited to interviews. After several good interviews but with no job offers, I began to wonder what I was doing wrong. Then came the interview that removed the scales from my eyes.

The position was in an office environment. The interviewer was friendly, but he began to noticeably draw the interview to a premature close. When he asked if I had questions, I said “Do you feel my qualifications fit this position?”

His replied, “Yes, they do. But this is a busy office, and you would be expected to keep up here.”

I was so shocked, so dumbfounded, so taken aback, I couldn’t speak. Based on what he saw on the outside, he judged that I was a tottering old relic who couldn’t keep up. Should I have the opportunity to answer the same question again, I would ask, “Is there a reason you feel I could not keep up here?”

So what was I doing wrong in the interviews? Nothing. However, for the first time since I crossed the senior age line, I understood what ageism is. 

Since that experience, my cover letters include the fact that as a mature worker, I offer rich, varied, unique and mature life experiences that would add a certain seasoning to the position.

Since I came out of the age closet through my cover letters, I have had far fewer interviews. For various reasons, none of those interviews have produced a steady, viable position.

Yes, I am a senior. But I am not my age. If I were, according to some in the corporate world, I would have nothing left to offer any business anywhere. 

If I were my age, according to some interviewers, I could not keep up with office procedures. 

If I were my age, I would have no new ideas to offer nor better plans to consider. 

If I were my age, according to some hiring managers, I could learn nothing new due to an old mind nor could I possibly be creative. 

If I were my age, my imagination and originality would have atrophied long ago.

Ageism is a terrible thing. Its discrimination and prejudice are sharply felt by many of us who have crossed that senior line. Ageism relegates an entire population of people to society’s landfill and refuses to recognize that many of us have a great deal to contribute. Perhaps some of our methods are old-fashioned, but many times old-fashioned works very well. Perhaps the younger generation may feel threatened by us seniors because they realize they are inexorably becoming older and will cross that senior line before they are ready to do so. 

In his poem, “Thanatopsis,” William Cullen Bryant writes of “the innumerable caravan which moves to that mysterious realm where each shall take his chamber in the silent halls of Death.” 

As a senior, I am inexorably moving with that caravan. So are we all. Perhaps the fear comes from the fact that we’re all inexorably moving. Perhaps ageism is a reaction to that fear.

To be fair, ageism is also experienced by younger generations. To both the younger and mature worker, ageism says, “because of your age, you cannot fit into the parameters of this,” whatever this may be. Ageism does not define people for who they are; it defines them for what age they are.

I am still surprised that I’m now a senior. I appreciate the respect paid to my position, but I also despise the discrimination towards it. Regarding birthdays, I am considering measuring my earthly time in orbits instead. So far, I’ve experienced 75 earth orbits around the sun. Somehow, that sounds better than being 75 years old.

Maybe it will also sound better to the next hiring manager. 

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