Age Problems

What is Ageism?

The term ageism refers to an ideology or set of beliefs holding that people in a particular age group are inferior, have negative attributes, and can be dominated and exploited because of their age (Intro to Social Problems, Pg 243). Age is an ascribed status in which people have zero control, however it is often a large factor in social stratification and an agent of inequality. Both the young and the elderly experience the discrimination of ageism, although in different ways.

Discrimination in the Job Market.

While reading through my classmates’ responses to our experience with age problems, we noticed a trend. Almost every person noted that they have encountered situations where they were made to feel inadequate or received prejudice because of their young age. I believe this is due to the unequal distribution of power in the workplace. With the rise of industrialism came the emergence of a new age group: adolescence. “Adolescence is viewed as a time of preparation for adulthood, in terms of both education and psychological maturation (pg 242).” This is one way that society is able to limit competition in the job market by giving power to middle aged citizens. So, although in previous societies children were a vital part of production in the economy, today they are considered dependents. Furthermore, the changes in family that have also been a result of industrialization means that marriage and childbearing no longer serve as the crossover steps into adulthood. This has caused a stigma on younger workers as older employees compete for limited jobs with those who have abandoned the steps they felt necessary to be competent in adulthood.

Vulnerability in Dependency: Problems of the Young.

The young in any society are vulnerable to a unique set of challenges. Because children are not likely to advocate for fair wages or adequate working conditions, they are often used as laborers and face economic exploitation. In Africa, one-third of all children work; in Latin America, 15 to 20 percent of children work (Intro to Social Problems, Pg 246). The reasons surrounding child employment largely involve poverty which leads to debt bondage and leaves children vulnerable to exploitation by factory workers. Although there are laws in place in the US to protect children from economic exploitation, they are still vulnerable to other consequences of poverty. The poverty rate among children is higher today than it was four to five decades ago: 22 percent today as compared to 14 percent in 1969. And it is almost twice as high as the poverty rate among the elderly (Intro to Social Problems, Pg 247). Children do not work and are unable to support themselves. As a result they are unable to pull themselves out of poverty. Instead they are dependent upon the adults in their lives and especially vulnerable to these consequences of poverty such as family instability, homelessness, and child abuse.
Mind the Gap

Respect your Elders

From a young age we are taught to respect our elders because they are wise and the life experience they have to offer the youth. When our classmates responded to our board a few weeks back there were an amazing array of responds from people in our class. A common theme was that when the elderly reach a certain age many of them are put into assisted living homes where the "respect your elders" saying seems to go out the window. As memories begin to fade and they become more dependent on others for basic needs the respect that they once had seems to diminish. It was shared that in some peoples homes once it become hard for the elderly to be independent it was harder to respect them and not see them as a nuisance. The older people get the easier it is to disrespect them about being hard of hearing, forgetting things, moving slowly, and not knowing how to use technology.

In the workplace the elderly can experience age discrimination from younger coworkers about working slowly and not being up to date on the latest technology. Because things like social media and advanced uses of the internet didn't become popular until later in their life it can be hard for them to learn how to use all the new devices in an effective way, making it hard for them to work. Many people over the age of 65 are encouraged or even forced into retirement to make way for the youth in the workplace.

While age discrimination is becoming more common for the elderly some older people can still have positive experiences working with the youth. As one classmate shared, she enjoys working with people up to two decades younger than her because she can share with them lessons that she had to learn the hard way in hopes that they don't make the same mistakes. Her experiences show hope for both the young and old that more people can respect each other despite age and that we can learn from everyone.

Working as an Intern without compensation

Internships are beneficial experiences that provide a practical side of education that offers a different aspect than in classrooms. There are many college students who are willing to have an internship experience during vacation. Internship experiences are kind of an important part in order to find a job after graduation. So, catching a chance of internship experience is not easy because of the high competition. Many companies exploit young college students without compensation of their efforts for those companies. Even though they are inexperienced, companies have to take care of them and they should be paid at least minimum wage because they decided to employ them as an intern for the company. Here is an actual story that happened few months ago. The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization to promote international co-operation. A college student from New Zealand who got employed as an intern by the United Nations could not afford rent in Geneva so he lived in a tent while working at the United Nations. I could not imagine how these things could happen in our modern society. Companies that provide unpaid internship have to reform the policy about how they treat interns.