Price and prejudice: tackling ageism in the workplace

Why do people assume that older people are less capable of learning, adapting and using IT than anybody else?

Why do people assume that older people are less capable of learning, adapting and using IT than anybody else?

Richard Worsley

Soapbox

The argument that all older people share a common set of shortcomings is as illogical as it is dangerous.

There is as broad a variance in capacity, aptitude and the ability to learn among older people, as there is among the young.

It is as meaningless to try to categorise all older people in this way as it is to suggest that everybody with blue eyes sings out of tune. What is strange is that we tolerate such assertions. Part of the explanation is that the understanding, awareness and regulation of equal opportunity has not yet been adequately extended to age - notwithstanding the disgracefully unfulfilled promise of Labour, when in opposition, that it would legislate against unfair age discrimination.

But there are also strong commercial and economic arguments against such attitudes, that should mean that we don't have to depend solely on the law to address ageism. The shape of the population is steadily changing, with the certain prospect of fewer young people and more people over 50.

Wise employers already understand the dangers of relying too heavily on their recruitment of young people.

And if we allow this sort of prejudice to stand in the way of older people making the contribution of which they are capable, they are going to be consumers of public expenditure, rather than contributors to taxation.

Employers are going to find it hard enough to cope with increasing skill shortages.

If they add to their problems through discrimination, they will be limiting the pool of skills from which they can draw - and will pay a heavy price.

Richard Worsley, the Carnegie Third Age Programme

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