Did you know that August 21 is National Senior Citizen’s Day? The purpose of the day – proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 – is to increase awareness of the issues that affect older adults, such as deteriorating health. It is also a day to acknowledge the accomplishments - and show our appreciation - of our senior citizens.
Whether it’s National Senior Citizen’s Day or any other, we can all show our appreciation by reaching out to the older people in our lives, be they family, friends, or neighbors. Seniors with social support tend to have better mental and physical health, and brain power. 1 Conversely they are susceptible to loneliness, isolation, and anxiety—even in “normal” times, let alone during a pandemic. So, reaching out will make a world of difference to their wellbeing.
Golden years, and careers
National Senior Citizens Day is also a day to recognize the contribution to society of our more experienced community members. While it’s easy to assume that all over-65s are retired), countless Americans in their 60s, 70s and beyond are certainly not spending their golden years on the golf course but (out of choice, or economic necessity) are actively engaged with their careers. Public figures like Nancy Pelosi and Warren Buffet are still going strong aged 81 and 90 respectively!
However, older workers – especially when it comes to securing a new position, or a promotion – often face a major challenge in the workplace: age bias.2 Some companies prefer to hire cheaper, younger workers who they believe may provide more overall value than someone more expensive with more experience and expertise.
Engaged and experienced
Yet, according to an AARP study in 2017, workers age 55 and up are among the most engaged members of the workforce, and offer employers lower turnover.3Another study found that older people are more likely to be successful entrepreneurs thanks to their patient, collaborative natures, and their lack of a “need to prove myself” attitude.4
National Senior Citizen’s Day is an opportune time to recognize the value that older employees bring to the workplace. Studies of the aging mind characterize this skillset as a “fine-tuned coordination of cognition, motivation, and emotion, knowledge about the self and other people and society”—which can only be acquired with age.5
Recognition and respect
While today we’re all more aware of race, gender, and cultural biases, we may be less aware of age bias. While our culture often fails to recognize the value of senior citizens, even mocking them, other societies across the globe revere and respect their elders—and the wisdom that comes with it.6
Some cultures communicate a high level of respect for elders through language, assigning special suffixes like –san in Japanese, while the Hawaiian word kūpuna for “elders” has the added connotation of knowledge, experience and expertise.7 In Japan, turning 21 is no big deal—it is your 60th year that marks your rite of passage into old age.
So this Senior Citizen’s Day, remember to recognize, respect, and reach out to the seniors in your life. After all, we’ll all be “old” one day!
1 “Why Relationships Are the Secret to Healthy Aging.” Evans, Karin. Published September 14, 2018. Accessed 27 July, 2021. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_relationships_are_the_secret_to_healthy_aging
2 “The Case for Hiring Older Workers.” Bersin, Josh and Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. September 26, 2019. Accessed July 27, 2021. https://hbr.org/2019/09/the-case-for-hiring-older-workers
3 “10 Age Discrimination Facts.” Palmer Kimberley. Published February 20, 2017. Accessed July 27, 2021.
4 “The Case for Hiring Older Workers.” Bersin, Josh and Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. September 26, 2019. Accessed July 27, 2021. https://hbr.org/2019/09/the-case-for-hiring-older-workers
5 Baltes, Paul and Staudinger, Ursula of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in “Learning to Love Growing Old.” Deniel, Jere. Published June 9, 2016. Accessed July 27, 2021.
6 “What it’s like to grow old, in different parts of the world.” Jacobs, Liz. Published November 25, 2013. Accessed July 27, 2021. https://blog.ted.com/what-its-like-to-grow-old-in-different-parts-of-the-world/
7 “What it’s like to grow old, in different parts of the world.” Jacobs, Liz. Published November 25, 2013. Accessed July 27, 2021. https://blog.ted.com/what-its-like-to-grow-old-in-different-parts-of-the-world/
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