Saturday, 12 January 2008

Oldie with attitude

Whoopee! I'm glad to see the first legal victory for us Northern Irish oldies under the new anti-ageist law brought in in 2006.

An employment tribunal has concluded that 59 year old Terence McCoy was illegally turned down for a job at a Belfast timber firm.

The advert for two sales jobs sought people with "youthful enthusiasm" and at the interview he was asked age-related questions.

The tribunal decided that but for his age Mr McCoy would "more probably than not" have been selected.

Mr McCoy felt he had been "flung on the scrapheap" despite having considerable experience and knowledge of the timber trade.

Good for him taking a stand against prejudice and not just shrugging it off as "one of those things". Now the company concerned and other companies will think twice before trying the same trick.

Even among the most enlightened people, I think there's still a sneaking suspicion that the over sixties are better off mowing the lawn than doing a paid job and that only twenty somethings have the oomph and drive to make a business successful.

The bleary-eyed young man who plods through the day with a crashing hangover or the miniskirted blonde who spends two hours discussing her boy friends are somehow seen as more employable and their personal failings are conveniently overlooked.

In the age of airbrushed supermodels and botoxed starlets, there's still a lingering belief that anyone with wrinkles and a double chin is past it and best put out to grass. Hopefully a lot more Terence McCoys will challenge this nonsense.

PS: John Lowe, 88, from Witchford in Cambridgeshire, is to star in Prokofiev's ballet The Stone Flower in Ely. He started ballet lessons when he was 79 and says "I think it's a wonderful thing to do and I don't understand why more men don't do it. There's nothing effeminate about it - you have to be incredibly fit to dance."


  1. Nick you're not wrong and in Australia with an ageing population, there is always talk among the political pundits of raising the retirement age to 70 to help keep the older players in the workforce. We even have a Mature Age Apprenticeship program to help older Aussies acquire a trade! I manage an office with quite a few Gen Xers and whilst they're good workers, they take more sick leave (for the most ridiculous reasons I might add), are less punctual and more likely to leave within a shorter timeframe. If it wasn't illegal I'd adopt a, 'no employees under 50' policy!

  2. Good for McCoy, Nick, not to take it lying down!
    I think the company missed out on a great salesman with the persistence hs is showing!
    And I love the ballet story. Reminds me of this woman in Toronto who used to go in and teach dance to the elderly in the nursing homes, "helping these poor old people get in touch with their bodies again" to quote her. At the end of the article they asked her how old she was. 93, was the answer.
    All in the mind, eh?

  3. Baino - Interesting that you find the Gen Xers less reliable - that reflects my own impressions. I'm not sure about no employees under 50 though. I think a workforce of varied ages is stimulating as the different generations supply a healthy mix of attitudes and experience.

    www - good point about persistence! And the story of the 93 year old is wonderful. The super-oldies seem to be ever more active. I was reading recently of a guy in his nineties who had taken up jogging and was now running in marathons!

  4. Good for him! Also I did ballet as a doesn't like to talk about it....but now I know I can return to it in retirement.....

  5. You did ballet as a child? What a wonderful image that conjures up, Manuel. You in your tutu twinkling round the ballet studio. And yes, a whole new post-foodie career beckons!

  6. Baino, many people in the U.S. are noting that retirement benefits might not get paid out until you're 67 rather than the current 65 because of the huge numbers of baby boomers approaching retirement. I expect to still be working when I'm 70.

  7. I don't disagree with the pension age being pushed to 67 (it's due in the UK too), as most people are fit and healthy enough to work to at least that age. We're still lucky enough to have many years of retirement (if we want it), whereas when pensions were first introduced most people didn't even live to pension age and never got one anyway.

  8. Fantastic victory, really good news. I would love to see the ballet.

  9. Yes, so would I. I wonder if anyone's doing a video of it??

  10. Otto von Bismark was the first to introduce a retirement age through the German Social Insurance system in the 1880's . . he originally set it at 75 years but it was dropped 27 years later to 65 as it was considered a fairer age (few men lived to reach 75 in those days) of cours now the Baby Boomers are reaching ripe old ages and are fitter and more motivated to stay in employment.

    Er, Nick, I was joking about the 50 only employees - I should employ more emoticons!

  11. Yes, I know about von Bismarck. What a very far-sighted man - we need a few like him in the UK right now instead of the current bunch of muddlers and hardliners. I suspected you were joking – my reply was obviously too deadpan as well!

  12. My manager in work is due to retire this year....that leaves a knowledge vaccum that will echo for years where I work. His physical health isn't so good otherwise he would love to stay on.

    Fair play to Mr McCoy. People should be allowed to work at what they want as long as they are able.

  13. Hearty congrats on your 99th post, Nick. And many more to come.

  14. Muddy - exactly, us oldies have an amazing amount of knowledge stashed away in the grey matter. Even if we've never heard of the newest, hottest cocktail and the sharpest, trendiest band.

    Medbh - thank you kindly. Glad you still find the blog worth reading!

  15. Most of Western civilization seems to have such a bias against older people in the workforce, even though with age often come wisdom and experience.

    Native Americans and Eastern cultures revere their elders because they understand that people often have the most to give past mid-life as they have been learning longer than the 20-somethings have been out of diapers.

    Good for Mr. McCoy for bucking the system, and for Mr. Lowe, the incredibly fit elderly ballet dancer. There is no reason to give up on life because ignorance abounds. We are all given a certain number of years on the planet and should try to enjoy them as fully as possible.

  16. Yes I’ve heard that quite a few times, Heart, that traditional cultures and societies properly venerate and respect their elders, very different from modern societies where the elderly are often callously treated or neglected. Indeed, we should enjoy our life to the maximum right to the end and not let old age dim our spirits.