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Fifty Is the New 65

images 4By Lynn Stuart Parramore,



In every corner of America, millions of people are terrified of losing their jobs and falling into financial ruin. Men and women with impressive professional achievements and credentials are being let go, nudged out and pushed aside. They are pounding the pavement and scouring the job sites, but find themselves turned away even for the most basic retail jobs. Not because they aren’t competent. Not because they lack skills. But simply because they have a gray hair or two.This is not just a story of people in their 60s or 70s. Workers as young as 50 are shocked to find themselves suddenly tossed onto the employment rubbish heap, just when they felt on top of their game. They’re feeling stressed, angry and betrayed by a society which has benefited greatly from their contributions.

As the global population grows older, age discrimination is on the rise. It could be headed for you, much sooner than you think. “I Got Thrown Away”

Jan, a marketing executive from southern California, is just 51, and she has already learned the heartbreak and frustration of age-related job insecurity.
She was flying high as the head of marketing for a large financial planning firm when she was laid off in 2009 at the age of 47. The recession had done its damage, and her firm had to let some people go — mostly the youngest and oldest employees. Jan understood why the layoff happened, as sad as it was. Her firm gave her great recommendations and kept her on as a consultant for a year.But she was not prepared for what happened when she tried to find another job.

First Jan applied for positions similar to her previous employment at banks and other financial institutions. Nothing. Keeping upbeat, she widened the net, applying for all marketing and communications jobs advertised in a 40-mile radius of her home. Still nada. Finally, she started applying for retail jobs and was shocked to find that she could not even land these. Jan got an interview at Barnes & Noble, but the store didn’t call her back, and she wondered if all the young people on the floor had something to do with it. She tried a local bridal shop, thinking that she was the same age as the mothers of the brides and would be a good fit. They didn’t hire her. Even Target turned her down for a job as a store clerk. No reason was given. That’s when she started to panic.

“It’s been difficult on my family,” Jan says. “My husband was a lawyer, but he has become disabled. My daughter felt embarrassed that I couldn’t find a job, and I’ve had to explain to her why she shouldn’t be. I had to explain to her that I was not ashamed, that I was mad. I had done everything I was supposed to do. I had gone to college, then to grad school. I worked very hard and I had a lot of success. Then I got thrown away.”
In researching this article, I heard many stories like Jan’s, from Americans from all walks of life. A commercial fisherman with 30 years experience from Tucson, Arizona has sent out dozens of applications, but gets zero bites. An Ohio IT professional with over 30 years experience was let go after 15 years at his company, and now finds himself working in a bottom-tier customer service position with 20-year-olds.

These are downwardly mobile Americans whose dreams of stability after decades of a job well done and a comfortable retirement are vanishing before their eyes.
Bigotry That Knows No Boundaries

Age discrimination can stalk you whether you’re black or white, poor or well off, male or female, gay or straight. It’s something we’re all likely to face if we stick around long enough. In the job market, it impacts our very survival and our sense of ourselves in the world.

New research shows that age discrimination may be even more common than we thought and more prevalent than other forms of bias, like ethnic discrimination. According to a study published in the Journal of Age and Ageing, one third of British people in their 50s and above reported age discrimination, a figure that surprised researchers. From poorer service in restaurants to ill treatment in hospitals to outright harassment, people found themselves increasingly disrespected as they aged.

Lead researcher Isla Rippon of University College London told Reuters that such day-to-day experiences impact physical and mental health: “Frequent perceived discrimination may be a chronic source of stress and build up over time, leading to social withdrawal and reluctance to go to the doctor.”

When it comes to financial stress, older Americans say that job insecurity is their number-one concern, according to a recent survey. Many people over 50 find themselves hanging on to their jobs for dear life, aware that they are perceived as obsolete and not as valuable as younger workers, despite their vast experience and institutional knowledge. According to a 2013 AARP survey report, “more than one-third of older workers are not confident that they would find another job right away without having to take a pay cut or move (37%). Of those, about one in five (19%) say the reason they are not confident is due to age discrimination and 21 percent identify age limitations, such as feeling they are ‘too old’ or limited in some way because of their age.”

Ashton Applewhite blogs about aging and ageism at She has much to say about the myths concerning older workers that permeate our culture: that people over 50 are rigid, trapped in their jobs, take too many sick days, or can’t cope with technology. The most common myth is that older workers are all the same. Applewhite’s research shows that nothing could be further from the truth.

“The hallmark of later life is heterogeneity,” explains Applewhite. “Think about it. We become less alike with every day that passes. A group of 20-year-olds is much more alike than a group of 60-year-olds. People age at different rates. The stereotypes don’t fit. Some older people are wise, some aren’t. Geriatricians have a saying: If you’ve seen one 80-year-old, you’ve seen one 80-year-old. You can’t neatly categorize older people.”

“It is true that younger workers can go faster,” concedes Applewhite. “Older workers go more slowly, but they’re more accurate. Age confers patience and coping skills, the ability to handle stress.”

According to Applewhite, the perception that older workers can’t handle physically demanding tasks is often outdated. She points out that chronological age is generally not an indicator of capacity, even for pilots or firefighters. Older, experienced workers actually hurt themselves less on the job.
The idea that after a certain age you can’t do demanding tasks is just a myth, says Applewhite, noting that even during slavery, the market price for slaves remained high well into their 70s, because slave owners knew they could do valuable work.

The stereotype that older workers can’t adjust to technology is similarly overstated, she says, noting that they are usually more than capable of learning new technical skills, particularly if those skills have relevance to their work experience.

Applewhite’s research shows that the most productive and effective teams in the workplace are mixed-age groups. “Experience plus freshness just makes sense,” she says. “A team with different generational perspectives has new energy, new possibilities for collaboration.”

“People think older people are trapped in their jobs,” says Applewhite. “But in reality, most older workers work because they enjoy their jobs. Shouldn’t people have the choice ¬— the right to continue to work if they want to? Nobody wants to be economically dependent.” The trouble comes when older workers are shunted aside or can’t find decent jobs, and then face a shredded social safety net. They become dependent, and that dependency just reinforces the myth that they are a burden. Who would want to be a burden by choice?
Older workers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they do manage to stay employed, they are accused of taking jobs away from younger people. Yet according to a recent Pew report, that’s just another myth.

The idea that younger and older workers are engaged in a zero-sum game for a fixed number of jobs is called the “lump-of-labor” theory. According the Pew report, this theory did not hold true in the Great Recession. On the contrary, a one-percentage point increase in Baby Boomer employment had an insignificant impact on youth employment rates, unemployment rates, or hours worked. An increase in the Boomer employment rate actually correlated to a 0.28 percent increase in youth’s hourly wage rate.
Far from taking jobs away from younger people, the employment of older workers seems to benefit them.Age Discrimination Is Costly

There was a time when American workers and their employers had fair contracts. The longer you worked for a company, the more you were paid, and when you retired you could expect a pension. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 made it unlawful for employers to discriminate against workers and certain job applicants 40 and over based on age.

Things started to change in the 1980s, when trends like deregulation, outsourcing and union-busting started to give employers more power to do with workers as they pleased. Business schools began to preach the misguided gospel of shareholder value maximization, which held that instead of investing in the skills and training of employees, companies should pursue layoffs and cost-cutting in the interest of short-term profits — moves that perverseley tend to negatively impact the long-term health of the firm.

It turns out that unbridled capitalism has a bias against older workers. Bosses started to focus more on younger workers because they are cheaper and didn’t expect things like pensions. They could also be more easily intimidated.

By 1993, a Supreme Court decision involving a 62-year-old employee discharged from Hazen Paper Company just weeks before he qualified for full pension benefits gave employers the right to look at factors associated with employee age, like the length of service with the company, in deciding whether or not to fire workers without fear of violating the law. Older workers were now much easier targets for employers.

Today, age discrimination charges are on the rise, which often happens during recessions: 22,857 workers filed age-related complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012 compared to just 16,548 in 2006. These cases involve well-known companies like Whole Foods, NBC, AT&T, and Ruby Tuesday.
Even academia, traditionally a place where older workers have enjoyed more protection, is becoming rife with age discrimination cases. A recent high-profile case involving long-time administrators at Rutgers University exhibits several of the hallmarks of unsavory practices involving older workers — employees with excellent records suddenly receiving negative reviews, decision-making processes conducted with unusual speed and opacity, and new management.

Millions of dollars are being spent by companies in lawsuits. Meanwhile, businesses lose valuable assets they haven’t properly assessed. According to an overly simplistic model of economics, the economy is supposed to be self-regulating and people are supposed to be paid precisely according to their worth, or what economists call their “marginal productivity.” The problem is, it’s extremely difficult to tell what a worker’s marginal productivity actually is. Many workers perform in teams. An older, experienced worker’s presence may have the effect of upping the game of the younger workers, but this is difficult to measure. In a newsroom, for example, an experienced journalist may bring credibility and reputation to the product, and impart valuable knowledge to newbies, who strive harder when she oversees their work. What happens when you pull out the older worker? The short-term bottom line is cut, but the team suffers and the long-term value of the company may be decreased.

Jan, the erstwhile marketing manager, thinks the U.S. is particularly obtuse when it comes to dealing with older workers. She points to Germany’s actions in the wake of the financial crisis: “The government went and created incentives for industry not to lay people off but to cut hours. Here in America, that didn’t happen.”
Jan and other older workers feel a deep sense of having been contributed to an economy and society that has kicked them to the curb.

“We work hard for years, and how do we benefit in the end? American companies don’t give back to the taxpayers and workers who have made their success possible. We should expect some reciprocity. We should reward companies that don’t outsource. We should improve the social safety net to help people who are unemployed through no fault of their own. There are things that I could be doing to further benefit the community, but if nobody wants to hire me, I don’t see where that’s ultimately my fault. Especially when the economy is producing enough for all if it were distributed fairly.”

We live in an era of planned obsolescence, in which designers deliberately make a thing limited in its useful life. Now this planned obsolescene includes human beings. Is it really an efficient use of our human capital to turn experienced workers into Walmart greeters?

Clearly, we need workplace policies and programs that expand the opportunities for older Americans to extend their labor force participation and continue to contribute their valuable skills and experience. Phased retirement plans in which older workers are kept on as part-time workers or consultants, for example, can benefit both employers and employees. Such plans mitigate the potential loss of knowledge as older workers retire.

The biggest-picture problem in the economy that needs to be addressed has to do with what economists call aggregate demand — the overall demand for goods and services. When people don’t have enough money in their pockets, which happens when economic shocks occur and the government pursues austerity policies, businesses stop hiring and people can’t find jobs or keep the ones they have.

This results in involuntary unemployment; it’s like a game of musical chairs in which the music stops and somebody is going to be left without a place to sit. Unless the government invests in the economy through jobs programs, education, infrastructure-building, and so on, aggregate demand remains low and unemployment persists, which particuarlly impacts the youngest and the oldest workers. When the GOP and many centrist Democrats pursue the self-defeating policies of cutting the social safety net with calls to raise the eligibility age to collect Social Security or kicking people off unemployment, the problem is only worsened.
Telling people to accept lower paying jobs may make sense for individuals, but in the economy as a whole, as Keynesian economists constantly remind us, wage cuts just add to the shortfall in demand.
In the end, we want an economy that allows everyone to work who is able to do so, and provides a robust social safety net for those who can’t. Our current system is unsustainable, and age discrimination, which strikes even those who are still in their prime, is quickly becoming an economic, social and public health disaster for the 21st century.



The future of growing old in America

pets-before-after-3James Ridgeway








 In these budget-strapped times, seniors are seen as freeloaders – when many are poor or exploited. They deserve better. In her remarkable book The Coming of Age, Simone de Beauvoir observed that fear of aging and death drives younger people to view their elders as a separate species, rather than as their own future selves: “Until the moment it is upon us,” she wrote, “old age is something that only affects other people. So it is understandable that society should prevent us from seeing our own kind, our fellow-men, when we look at the old.”

This disconnect has, no doubt, been helpful to those who favor cutting the so-called old age entitlements, social security and Medicare – which, these days, seems to include just about everyone in Washington. Now that the congressional supercommittee charged with reducing the federal deficit has gone down in flames, some are calling for a return to the plan proposed by Obama’s Simpson-Bowles deficit commission last year. Amidst all the bipartisan warring, one thing most of these committee members agree upon is that the budget will, in large part, be balanced on the backs of old people, through cuts to social security and Medicare. The only differences are over how these cuts should be made, and how large they should be

In the unlikely event that the rich are made to pay something toward deficit reduction, in the form of increased taxes, their contribution will pale in comparison to the share paid by elders in the form of reduced benefits. In part, that’s because the enemies of entitlements have succeeded in depicting these lifesaving government programs as the cause of our economic woes – a myth that has repeatedly been debunked, to little avail. By extension, they depict our current fiscal crisis as a standoff between the old and the young, rather than the rich and the poor. Former Senator Alan Simpson, handpicked by Obama to chair his deficit commission, was fond of talking about the perfidy of “fat cat geezers” who dared to oppose entitlement cuts at the expense of his – and everyone’s – grandchildren.

Simpson’s image of old people “who live in gated communities and drive their Lexus to the Perkins restaurant to get the AARP discount” seems to have gained traction as the dominant view of elders in this country. This belies the reality of the lives lived by millions of older Americans, for whom a comfortable retirement was never more than a distant dream. For them, old age means work or poverty – or, sometimes, both.

Recently, I attended the annual meeting in Boston of the Gerontological Society of America, a research and education organisation whose members study all aspects of aging. With 3,500 people in attendance, hundreds of sessions and a teeming exhibit hall, there was plenty of upbeat talk about the “encore years”. But there was also a body of research and discussion that presented a more rounded picture of old age in America – a place where “fat cat geezers” are far outnumbered by elders who, like Americans of all ages, are struggling to get by.

In one exhibit on “The Economics of Aging”, researchers from Wayne State University presented a study published earlier this year called “Invisible Poverty”, which found that one in three elders – including many living in middle-class suburbs – cannot fully cover their basic living expenses, including food, housing, transportation and medical care. It also found that certain shortcomings in the way federal poverty statistics are compiled meant that poverty among older people was more likely to be underestimated. “This widespread economic struggle faced by Michigan seniors is fairly hidden from public sight, making it an invisible poverty that takes its toll on older individuals, their families and caregivers and the community at large,” says the study.

Among the elderly poor are large and growing numbers of women. Consider the figures: over 40% of black and white women are over 65, and over a quarter of these women are poor. They are likely to be isolated and they, too, are invisible. Also below the public policy radar, according to another study presented at the conference, are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender elders – who are now counted at over 2 million, and are expected to double in number by 2030. These people are far less likely to have partners or caregivers of any sort, because society banned or discouraged them.

For these elders, and millions of others, social security is more than an “entitlement” – it is a lifeline. According to a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, social security alone keeps 20 million Americans above the poverty line. It’s hard to argue that social security benefits are too generous, or that retirees enjoy extravagant lifestyles. The average social security benefit currently stands at just over $1,100 a month. As the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Dean Baker notes, “More than 75% of benefits go to individuals with non-social security income of less than $20,000 a year and more than 90% of benefits go to individuals with non-social security income of less than $40,000 a year.” In addition, Baker points out:

“The private pension system has largely collapsed and the current group of near retirees saw much of their home equity disappear with the collapse of the housing bubble. As a result, the situation of retirees is likely to be worse in the near future, especially after taking into account the growing burden of out-of-pocket healthcare expenses projected in the decades ahead.”

So it is the search for work, not cleaning one’s fingernails, or studying French to stave off dementia, that is now a major concern for many older people. Historically they have been fired from long-held jobs because of their costly benefits and diminishing ability to handle the job, but now employers are taking a fresh look at this situation. Business, as it turns out, may very well embrace the old – because they often come at lower wages, with no benefits and scant legal protection. Given US supreme court rulings, the prospect of any of these people filing old age discrimination suits is unlikely. Rather than knocking them out of a job, it may turn out to be less expensive to keep on a skilled, elderly employee, perhaps at reduced salary and reduced hours, than go through the rigamarole of hiring a young, inexperienced person who must then undergo training.

As the GSA conference showed, there is no point in cutting entitlements to the elderly when, in fact, so little is known about their lives and their emerging future. It means there must be a full, open debate – not backdoor political manoeuvring – on the issue. What may be happening here is the emerging outlines of a much different society than the one we now know: a society that, for example, will require a new service sector, a different slant towards medicine, which uses the old to assist the young, as friends and caregivers – instead of pitting generations against one another.

The late Theodore Roszak,who described and named the “counter culture”that took shape in the 1970s, thought old people were anything but a selfish bunch of useless geezers waiting to die, but an “audacious generation”, opening a new world of energy and hope. Let us hope, in de Beauvoir’s words, that moment is upon us.

Jamacian Rice and Peas

beans & rice• Servings: 4-6


1 19oz can gungo peas (pigeon peas) or kidney beans

• 2 cups coconut milk
• 2 green onions, chopped
• 1 whole scotch bonnet pepper
• 1/2 tsp dried thyme
• 1/2 tsp kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
• 2 cups long grain white rice
• 1 tbsp butter

1. In a large measuring cup, combine the liquid from the canned peas with the coconut milk. Add more water if necessary to make 31/2 cups of liquid. Pour the liquid into a large saucepan and add the peas, green onions, hot pepper, thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 3 minutes.

2. Add the rice and butter; stir the pot once. Don’t burst the pepper! Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the water has completely evaporated and the rice is cooked. If the rice is not tender after the water evaporates, add 2-4 tbsp of water, cover and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
Serve hot and enjoy!


Jerk Chicken

jerk• 1 4lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil
• 1/4 cup white vinegar
• Servings: 5-6
• 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
• 2 tbsp ground allspice
• 2 tsp kosher salt
• 2 tsp freshly ground pepper
• 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
• 1 tsp brown sugar
• 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 3 large sprigs fresh thyme
• 5 scallions
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper

1. In a bowl, combine oil, vinegar, lime juice, allspice, salt, pepper, ginger, sugar, cinnamon and thyme. Chop (do not blend) the green onions, garlic and scotch bonnet pepper as finely as possible; add to the oil mixture and stir well.
Most cooks marinate their meat for as long as possible, at least 12 hours but sometimes up to
24. As a result, the chicken is imbued with a ton of flavor.
2. Add the chicken to the spice mixture and, wearing gloves, massage the spice mixture into the chicken with your hands. Marinate, covered and refrigerated, for at least 5 hours or overnight.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
4. Spread marinated chicken on the baking sheet. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. Remove the foil and broil the chicken until browned, turning once for even brown]=[ping. Don’t overcook. Discard the thyme sprigs before serving.
5. This dish can also be cooked on a barbecue. Grill for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink at the bone, basting with the remaining marinade.
b mountains There’s a reason jerk is so dear to Jamaicans’ hearts, and that’s its long history on the island. The method of cooking is said to have originated under the colonial rule, first of the Spanish and then of the British, in the 1600s. Groups of African slaves that had been brought to Jamaica to work its sugar plantations escaped to the mountainous interior of the island, where the native Indian population also sought refuge from the colonizers.

These escaped slaves, today referred to as Maroons, are said to have hunted the wild boar common to the region, then preserved it for days in a spice-heavy marinade. When it came time to cook the meat, the Maroons dug holes in the ground, filled them with charcoal, and buried the meat in the holes, which they then covered so as not to produce smoke and attract the attention of those that would bring them back into slavery.

Whatever the recipe used, Jamaicans have a fierce passion for this native dish that’s as treasured for its historical significance as it is for its sheer tastiness.

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Grits

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Grits

lemon-garlic shrimp and grits

Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen

Total Time: 30 min
Prep: 15 min
Cook: 15 min

Yield: 4 servings

Level: Easy






3/4 cup instant grits
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus wedges for serving
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley


Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat, covered. Uncover and slowly whisk in the grits, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parmesan and 1 tablespoon butter. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic and cayenne, if using, and cook, tossing, until the shrimp are pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons water, the lemon juice and parsley; stir to coat the shrimp with the sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Divide the grits among shallow bowls and top with the shrimp and sauce. Serve with lemon wedges.

Cajun Shrimp and Rice

Cajun Shrimp and Rice

cajun riceRecipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen
Cajun Shrimp and Rice Cajun Shrimp and Rice

Total Time: 20 min
Prep: 14 min
Cook: 6 min

Yield: 4 servings

Level: Easy


Recipe Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 bunches scallions, chopped
3 cups cooked white rice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)


Heat the butter, olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the Cajun seasoning and shrimp and cook, stirring, until the shrimp begin to curl, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the tomatoes and scallions to the skillet and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the rice and 1/4 cup water and continue to cook until the rice is warmed through and the shrimp are opaque, about 3 more minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve with lemon, if desired.

Per serving: Calories 357; Fat 11 g (Saturated 3 g); Cholesterol 176 mg; Sodium 537 mg; Carbohydrate 40 g; Fiber 3 g; Protein 23 g

Home made Fried Rice

Home made Fried Rice

fried rice


Day-old rice (refrigerated left-over rice)

2 Tbsp, Olive oil (light)
A few crushed garlic (3-5)
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce, or to taste
Dash of salt, or to taste
2 eggs, beaten
Handful, frozen peas and corn

You need either a big wok or a deep frying pan for this.

Heat about a 1-2 Tablespoon oil in a pan or wok. Saute the garlic until aromatic.

fried rice 4
Add the cold rice and stir to break the grains apart. Cook until warmed up. Season with a little salt. Add the soy sauce and mix with the rice until most of the grains are coated.

You may either scramble the eggs in another pan and just add it later after it’s been cooked. But if you have a big enough wok or wide enough pan, create a well/space in the middle of it by pushing the rice to the side. Spray a little oil in the middle and then pour the beaten egg.

fried rice 5
Let it set. When the eggs have set enough, flip it over then begin to mix it with the rice, breaking it up as you do so.fried rice 6 After this, you may add the frozen peas and corn and continue to stir until the veggies are cooked about 2-3 mins. Serve warm. Easy-peasy delicious!