Age-ism in America; The Discrimination Practice No One Wants to Talk About


I am a 67-year-old man who retired 9 years ago after 30 years with the federal government. My first 11 years was on active duty with the US Army and the next 19 years with the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. I have a B.S. degree in computer science and a Master’s degree in U.S. History. That second degree might not mean so much except I got it from Harvard and figured that would count for something. But thus far, it does not seem to have counted for anything. Additionally, I am in amazing health. At a recent visit to the doctor’s office they were concerned when they saw my resting pulse was 52. I told them about my cardio exercise program which is just a bit intense. I have a 24-mile bicycle route for my lazy days and a 40-mile route for my more energetic. Regardless, at a cardiac stress test I recently took the doctor was amazed that I not only reached my max heart rate but surpassed it. He informed me they have trouble getting most people to reach their max heart rate.

From age 58, when I retired from the Federal Government until 65, I worked as a substitute teacher for a public school system of an inner city school. I mostly taught grades 3 through 6. I really liked that job and it was a great experience until one day I felt I needed to move on. But move on to what? I just know that I want to be working and being productive.

I spent a fair amount of my spare time since retiring figuring out what I could of quantum physics. The subject absolutely fascinates me. I decided that if I could return to age 18 I would pursue an undergrad degree in physics with an emphasis on the quantum part of it and then follow that up with a doctoral program in astro-physics.   To do such a thing I would need to hone my math skills and so I have embarked on relearning all my high school and college math, self-taught this time. It is going well!

Anyway, over the past two years plus I have applied for numerous jobs for which I know I am entirely qualified and would like to do. One job in particular I came across at a job fair Harvard held. The job description perfectly fit my experience. As it turned out, however, the woman at the job fair was also the one doing the hiring. I did not get the job. It is not so bad not getting a job but it seems corporate America today no longer feels the need to send a rejection letter. That would be both the right thing to do and the polite thing to do. None of the dozen or so jobs I have applied for has sent me a rejection letter. What am I to make of this? How do I get a prospective employer to understand that while I may be over-qualified it does not mean I would not fully enjoy doing the job? And how do I get them to disregard my age?

About a year ago someone told me not to include any jobs further back than 20 years. That sounded a little disingenuous to me but I did that. It did not help. One thing is certain, ageism is at work here.

I am an intelligent person who has a lot of energy and a lot of years in front of him. I do not want to spend those years in retirement. I have too much to offer and think it is of value. I just need to get someone to look past my age and consider that I have a lot of potential. I am most certainly more reliable and experienced and most 20-somethings in the working world today. I also do not need most benefits that a 20-something requires. Not only do I have Medicare but also a 2nd health plan I retired with. And since I already receive a government retirement annuity on top of social security, I have not need of a 401k or other retirement vehicle. Those two things alone taken out of a fully loaded pay. In other words, I come cheap. It boggles my mind why some company has not snapped me up yet just considering those two things alone. Ageism? I truly believe I could easily work at a single job until I am 85 or older.

What sorts of jobs am I well-suited for? I am glad you asked! Project management of large scale computer systems, the design and implementation, to included planning, contracting, testing, and implementing.   I could be a CIO. I have seen the job some CIOs have done and can only wonder who thought they would be good at the job. Thirty years ago I was hired by a professor at MIT because he said I had the political skills necessary to get some engineering work done, skills he sorely lacked. I play well with others and know how to get people to do a good job and satisfy a customer in the process. My mind is outstandingly logical which helps me deduce the best solution to problems as they present themselves.

I know I am not alone among retirees who would love to re-enter the job force. We are more grounded, more experienced and more reliable than most applicants for just about any job. It would seem that companies would want exactly that sort of person but how do you get those companies to realize that people over 60 can be fantastic workers?  Not only is it stupid for companies to reject people over 60 without consideration, it is illegal!  Proving that is another case.

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