Why you should include age in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

By Michelle Walch, Walch Communication

Aging is one thing everyone experiences. Ageism is the “ism” many of us are likely to experience as we grow older.

Age activist and author of This Chair Rocks Ashton Applewhite said it perfectly: “Like racism and sexism, ageism serves a social and economic purpose: to legitimize and sustain inequalities between groups. It’s not about how we look. It’s about how people in power assign meaning to our look.”

Damaging effects of age discrimination

Typically people start experiencing age discrimination around 50, even though the Age Discrimination in Employment Act has been law since 1967. 

A 2019 article in Forbes showed that bias towards many groups has declined. However, bias towards age has not changed. Age discrimination negatively impacts employers and not just the employees. 

An age-inclusive workforce benefits from the wisdom and experience of older workers. Just as with including racial, ethnic, LBTGQ, and neurodiverse staff among the ranks, a multigenerational aspect is enriching. A diverse group of people contributes to different lived experiences and makes for richer, broader, more complete results. 

Colorado has seen successful age-diverse and age-inclusive programs. The state has the fastest growth rate for those 65+ and retirees moving there and has made strides in convincing employers of the value of mature workers. 

Adding age into your diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy

Want to make sure you are on track with age inclusion? Check out AARP’s Age and Diversity and Inclusion worksheet. Age Equity Alliance also offers training on age inclusion. 

How we communicate about age

How we talk about age makes a big difference in creating age equity. We see this issue in marketing, internal and external relations, job postings, interviewing, etc. Do not use generational language that fosters an “us versus them” mentality

Changing the Narrative (a communications campaign to increase the understanding of ageism and attitudes towards it) has an age-inclusive communications guide. Use this reference to make sure you are avoiding ageist language and imagery. This helps with an organization’s internal and external relations. 

Another resource to check on suspected ageism is Applewhite’s blog Yo, is this Ageist? It’s a great place to ask anything about ageism! 

Integrating age into your diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy for communications, in the workplace, and in your daily life makes sense. A few mindful steps yield great rewards when we end ageism and all the other isms. 

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