I used to have a neighbor in his 60s who owned a dance studio. Despite the fact that he kept his yard (and often mine) perfectly manicured and was as physically fit as any 30-something I knew, I still imagined this older gentleman’s role in his studio as limited to managing his employees and maybe teaching the waltz … but leaving the cha-cha and salsa lessons to the young instructors.
Unfortunately, the viewpoint that older folks are incapable of physically demanding jobs is hardly an uncommon one. (Since when have you ever seen a mover over the age of 30?!) But despite this rampant ageism, we’re increasingly seeing employers waking up to the benefits of hiring older and wiser employees as well as seeing a lot of seniors bulldozing their way into these fields.
Take 66-year-old Roy J. Lester in New York. He’d been a lifeguard at Jones Beach since 1965, until the Parks and Rec people told him he had to wear a Speedo for his annual swim test in 2007. He refused. He’s been fighting their mandate in court ever since. On Jones Beach, there are many lifeguards who’ve stood sentry for 50 years or more (long past the days when any 13-year-old considered them a heartthrob). By battling this discrimination, Lester feels he’s not just protecting his own rights. He’s also defending the life-long lifeguarding culture at the beach. Read the whole story.
But the beach isn’t the only field active seniors are playing on these days. There are also a growing number of older folks counting reps and spotting lifters in gyms around the country. When Sharon Hill decided to get in shape in her 50s, she threw herself into her workouts full force. Before long, she was winning races and dropping dress sizes. When she decided to retire from sales, she didn’t quit work altogether, but instead earned her personal training certification. With this certification, she began training people her own age who may have previously been a little intimidated by a younger trainer. As of her 61st birthday, she was still at it! Learn more about older trainers.
And then there’s my mother-in-law. Starting out as a realtor, she moved into the appraising field later in her career and continued walking properties and slinging a tape measure until she was well into her 70s. She retired a couple years ago, but certainly not because she couldn’t do it anymore.
Where there’s a will (and some good supportive walking shoes), there’s a way!
Share ways that you or your friends have defied age discrimination.