Agency on Aging


Myths of the Older Worker

Unlike other pieces of legislation enacted to fight discrimination, the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) has a built-in failsafe for companies who find equality too inconvenient. The “reasonable factor other than age” or RFOA defense. Essentially, if any other justification can be made for laying off a worker then there is no means for that worker to fight the ruling.

We’ve all heard the justifications behind age-based discrimination, or even thought them ourselves. Older workers are stubborn and slower to adjust to technology. Older workers have more health problems and are out of the office more. Older workers are just holding down their chairs, waiting to cash in on big money pensions. Heck, maybe companies are doing a favor to older workers they push out—shouldn’t people in their 60s and 70s be relaxing in Florida instead of taking up space in the corner offices?

Well, if older people would rather be retired it’s news to them. Whether it’s by choice or by necessity, workers over the age of 65 have actually doubled between 1977 and 2007 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. As Baby Boomers began to reach their 60s, this figure has doubled again. Today, approximately 6% of the labor force is over 65, a sharp increase from 3.6% in 2006. The avalanche of articles you find online are evidence enough that not only are older people working, but that they want to work… if only they were given the chance.  Read more.