Most older workers say they face age discrimination in the workplace

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As America’s population continues to age, older workers’ participation in the labor force continues to climb. 

Still, recent data shows most of those seasoned workers feel discrimination against older workers is prevalent in the workplace today and could harm their prospects of finding a job – even in a tight labor market.

A study released by Pew Research Center in December found that about one-in-five Americans age 65 and older were employed last year, which is twice the share of that age group that were working 35 years ago.

messy desk

There are more older Americans in the workforce than ever before, but most say they still face age discrimination. (iStock / iStock)

Yet, although it is more common to see older staff members in the workplace, many of them say they feel their age is held against them.

Research from AARP found that roughly two in three adults ages 50-plus in the labor force (64%) think older workers face age discrimination in the workplace today. Among those, nearly all (90%) believe that age discrimination against older workers is common. 

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In addition, just over one in 10 report that they have been passed up for a promotion or chance to get ahead because of their age.

A California worker prepares desserts

A worker wears a mask while preparing desserts at Universal City Walk on Friday, May 14, 2021, in Universal City, California, on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Newsroom)

“Many people in their 50s, 60s and 70s feel that age discrimination can hurt their chances of getting a new job or moving forward in their careers,” said Heather Tinsley-Fix, senior advisor, employer engagement at AARP. “But the number of older workers is growing.”

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Tinsley-Fix noted that the workforce is aging because the population is aging, and many older adults need or want to continue working, whether for financial reasons or to keep busy and stay fulfilled. 

“Given employers’ need for talent,” she said, “it makes great business sense to hire experienced workers.”

Tinsley-Fix says that in order to retain high-quality workers, employers need to provide an atmosphere of belonging and a sense of meaning in their work. 

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“Pay is important, of course, and so is flexibility,” she said. “But at the end of the day, it’s inclusion that really matters, regardless of your age.” 

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