Ageism. It’s a subject I’ve tended to hold at arm’s length, for two reasons. First, although I know ageism is a genuine problem in today’s workplace, it fortunately has never affected me directly. Second, since there’s nothing I can do to change my birth date, I feel like there’s nothing I can do about ageism.
But there is something I can do. And it turns out I’ve been doing it all along.
In Age: The Last Socially-Acceptable Bias, author Chip Conley describes returning to the workforce in his mid 50s, saying that “what I lacked in DQ (Digital Intelligence), I made up for in accumulated EQ (Emotional Intelligence).” The experience, he says, turned him into a modern elder.
Long ago, and still today in some communities, the oldest members were venerated. In the mid-twentieth century world that I grew up in, elders in the workplace were handed a gold watch, shown the door, and expected to shuffle off to a rocking chair.
On reading Conley’s article, I instantly embraced the term modern elder because I recognized the need to redefine the status of elders in the workplace, and because I realized that it’s something I already try to embody.
According to Conley, a modern elder is “someone who marries wisdom and experience with curiosity, a beginner’s mind, and a willingness to learn from those younger.”
As I pulled Conley’s definition apart, I saw something that I hope others see when they look at me. Continue reading