Last Gasp of White House Conf. on Aging

WHCOAA Sad Reflection on the State of Aging in the U.S.

“One of the best measures of a country is how it treats its older citizens.”

“We have to work to do more to ensure that every older American has the resources and support they need to thrive.”

There were a lot of hackneyed slogans at the seminal meeting of the once-in-a-decade White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) – including the above observations by President Barack Obama.  U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez observed that “age is a state of mind.” Assistant Secretary of Aging Kathy Greenlee issued a memorable pronouncement that “a good old age is too good to lose.”

Innumerable middle-aged mostly-federal bureaucrats fawned about “this momentous day” and “this extraordinary conference” and a bevy of “experts” attempted to hawk products and services to viewers listening via the internet (i.e., Uber, Peapod Grocery Delivery, Eversave Technology, AARP brand partners,, etc.).

Greenlee was the moderator of the elder justice panel, which largely focused on the financial exploitation of older Americans. She was harshly critical of paid caregivers who financially exploited a veteran acquaintance, the perpetrator of a scam that targeted a grandparent, and a crooked financial planner who ripped off two older Americans. She never mentioned the mostly anonymous Wall Street pirates who were never prosecuted for stealing the homes and retirement savings of literally millions of older Americans during the Great Recession (2007 –   ) Continue reading “Last Gasp of White House Conf. on Aging”

Does the White House Conf. on Aging have Alzheimer’s?

WHCOA

What a difference a decade makes – unless you are The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA).

Then it doesn’t seem to make any difference.

Today, the once-every-decade conference will hold its signature event after months of low-level activity sponsored mainly by the AARP, America’s leading purveyor of health insurance to older Americans (not to mention vacation travel, car repairs, telephone and internet service, etc. etc.).

The WHCOA  sent out emails Saturday detailing the agenda for the big event.

Apparently there was no time in the jam-packed schedule to discuss the financial havoc wrought upon older Americans by the worst recession in America in 100 years. Similarly,it does not appear the conference will address the epidemic of age discrimination in hiring that relegates older workers to chronic unemployment, low-paid work and a financially improvident “early retirement.” It’s almost as if this unpleasant chapter of American history, attributable to Wall Street pirates who were never prosecuted, never happened.

The conference will focus on care-giving, “planning for financial security at every age,” nutrition, “the power of inter-generational connections and healthy aging,” universal design and technology and the future of aging.

To add insult to injury, the organizers of the WHCOA are asking Americans to complete this sentence: “Getting older is getting better because …”

Is getting older getting better?

Continue reading “Does the White House Conf. on Aging have Alzheimer’s?”

Age Discrimination in the U.S. Financial Sector?

justiceWhat are the chances that a recent survey by an Australian recruiting firm that found widespread age discrimination in the financial sector there could be replicated here?

The firm, Marks Sattin, reports it surveyed 476 hiring managers in the accounting, banking and finance, insurance, and wealth management industries in Australia and found that three-quarters of those aged over 50 felt they had encountered age discrimination. Older workers were perceived as “resistant to change” (67 per cent), and “slow to learn” (37 per cent). Sattin reports that age discrimination was twice as prevalent as gender discrimination,.

Leuan William, director of Marks Sattins, called age discrimination the “white elephant in the room.” She said there were discussions around gender discrimination but age discrimination flew under the radar. “The result is a substantial number of mature candidates who are unable to get jobs, despite immense qualifications and experience. Australia needs to eradicate the stereotypes and adopt a pro-mature workforce culture,” Williams said. Continue reading “Age Discrimination in the U.S. Financial Sector?”

Age Discrimination Linked to Worsened Mental Health

A team of university researchers has found that age discrimination in the workplace is “significantly related” to a series of negative outcomes for victims, including worsened mental health.

mental healthA team of university researchers has found that age discrimination in the workplace is “significantly related” to a series of negative outcomes for victims, including worsened mental health.

In addition to declining mental health, workers who are subject to age discrimination suffer higher general stress, increased job dissatisfaction, elevated turnover intentions and increased desires to retire.

The researchers created a scale called the Workplace Age Discrimination Scale to measure age discrimination in the workplace discrimination.  It includes the following questions:

  • I have been treated as though I am less capable due to my age.
  • I have been given fewer opportunities to express my ideas due to my age.
  • I have unfairly been evaluated less favorably due to my age.
  • I receive less social support due to my age.
  • My contributions are not valued as much due to my age.
  • Someone has delayed or ignored my requests due to my age.
  • Someone has blamed me for failures or problems due to my age.

The study, Age Discrimination in the Workplace and its Association with Health and Work: Implications for Social Policy, was primarily conducted by Dr. Ernest Gonzales, Assistant Professor and Peter Paul Professor at Boston University’s School of Social Work and Dr. Lisa Marchiondo, Assistant Professor of Industrial and Organizational Psychology at  Wayne State University. Continue reading “Age Discrimination Linked to Worsened Mental Health”

Why is the White House Conf. on Aging Censoring Public Comments?

Ed. Note: Since this was written, my comments on two of the three White House Council on Aging’s policy briefs re-appeared on the WHCOA web site, this time on a right-hand side column.  Still missing is my comment about the WHCOA’s Retirement Security Policy Brief, where I complain that age discrimination in employment is a cause of poverty in retirement and certainly should be part of any serious discussion about retirement security.  PGB 

WHCOA
The White House Conference on Aging recently invited the public to comment about its policy briefs but it appears to be censoring which comments it is publicly displaying on its web site.

I commented last night on the Conference’s policy briefs on Healthy Aging, Elder Justice and Retirement Security. I noted the Conference had failed to address the role of age discrimination in all of these areas, which is particularly baffling in the case of retirement security. My comments were posted on the Conference’s web site last night but they were missing today. Continue reading “Why is the White House Conf. on Aging Censoring Public Comments?”

White House Conf. on Aging Punts – Again

The White House Conference on Aging issued its fourth and final policy brief this week, a myopic document that supposedly addresses “retirement security” without even once mentioning age discrimination.

WHCOA

The White House Conference on Aging  issued its fourth and final policy brief this week, a myopic document that supposedly addresses “retirement security” without even once mentioning age discrimination.

This WHCOA’s Retirement Security policy brief is focused upon the following three areas:

  1. Protecting and strengthening Social Security. “Current beneficiaries should not see their basic benefits reduced.”
  2. Increasing retirement security and employer-based retirement savings options. “Automatically enroll Americans without access to a workplace retirement plan in an IRA.”
  3. Ensuring workers receive retirement investment advice in their best interest. Require “more retirement advisers to abide by a ‘fiduciary’  standard—putting their clients’ best interest before their own profits.”

The WHCOA concedes in the policy brief that Social Security has become the main source of income for older Americans, especially women and minorities, but fails to inquire into the reasons for this. There is no mention of the bogus down-sizings and restructurings that are little more than ploys to rid the workplace of older workers who earn high salaries or just don’t look “hip” anymore.  There is no mention of  overwhelming evidence of age discrimination in hiring, which robs older workers of the ability to find meaningful work and save for retirement. There is no mention of  evidence that older workers are disproportionately subject to chronic unemployment, which forces them to spend down their savings, take low-paid work and, eventually, to retire as soon as possible, resulting in at least a 25 percent cut in benefits for the rest of their lives.  There is no mention of age discrimination at all, just as there was no mention of age discrimination in the WHCOA’s earlier policy briefs on Elder Justice, Healthy Aging and Long-Term Services and Supports. Continue reading “White House Conf. on Aging Punts – Again”

THE AARP’S ROLE IN WHITE HOUSE CONF. ON AGING

What is the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) … Really.

Is it a serious examination of the problems facing older Americans that occurs once every decade, or is it a public relations opportunity?

At its fourth regional forum on Monday, the WHCOA held a panel discussion on retirement security that featured a panel of  bureaucrats who failed to even mention age discrimination. That’s like talking about California’s drought without mentioning climate change. A spokesperson for the Obama administration promised the President would protect Social Security and said the administration is working to make the process of retirement savings easier and more transparent. No one is asking why so many older Americans  are poor and struggling

Numerous attempts in recent months to contact Nora Super, executive director of the WHCOA, to urge her to address employment discrimination based on age have failed to elicit any response whatsoever. Why does the WHCOA seems to be focusing upon soft issues like “healthy aging.”

On its web site, the AARP says it is “co-sponsoring” and “co-planning” the WHCOA’s regional forums, along with a lobbying group called Leadership Council of Aging (LCAO), which describes itself as a coalition of 72 of the nation’s leading organizations serving older Americans. The contact person for “all questions” regarding the LCAO is Nicholas Barracca at LCAO@aarp.org. I emailed that address on Monday and received an unsigned reply stating that the AARP is the “current chair organization” of the LCAO, which rotates chairs each year among five different organizations. I inquired again about the LCAO’s source of funding and Barracca replied that the LCAO is funded through membership dues.

At some point, it is fair to ask whether there is a conflict of interest with respect to the AARP’s dominating role in the WHOA forums.

Continue reading “THE AARP’S ROLE IN WHITE HOUSE CONF. ON AGING”

OBAMA’S POLICY ON AGING – BE POSITIVE!

The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) issued its first “policy brief” Friday afternoon, addressing the issue of  “healthy aging.”

Get ready for news of a truly momentous policy announcement –  The Conference is urging a “shift in the way we think and talk about aging. Rather than focusing on the limitations of aging, older adults across the nation want to focus instead on the opportunities of aging.”  Oh, and older adults should get physical activity, good nutrition and good medical care.

No, this is not an April fools joke.  With all of the problems facing older Americans, the Obama administration essentially wants us all to think happy thoughts.

Meanwhile, the WHCOA  has completely ignored calls to address the problem of age discrimination in employment, which, among other things, condemns older workers to a retirement of poverty or near poverty.

According to a 2013 study by Economic Policy Institute,  nearly half (48.0 percent) of the elderly population is “economically vulnerable,” defined as having an income that is less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold. This equates to roughly 19.9 million economically vulnerable seniors. Women and minorities have far higher rates of economic vulnerability. Continue reading “OBAMA’S POLICY ON AGING – BE POSITIVE!”

REPORT: MOST WOMEN’S CAREERS DIE AT 45

While the U.S. continues to ignore the on-going epidemic of age discrimination here, a new report in the United Kingdom posits that ageism and sexism combine to effectively end women’s careers at the age of 45.

Men continue to progress until around age 55, when they are written off by employers  as being “past it.”

These are some of the results of a major report by economist Ros Altmann, who was appointed last year by the United Kingdom’s Department for Work and Pensions Minister to serve as the U.K.’s  Business Champion for Older Workers.

Altmann told the British Daily Mail and Independent newspapers that senior human resource professionals report that women’s career progression in most companies stops around the age of 45.  She said that nearly half the growth in female employment since the recession has been in low-paid, part-time work, mainly  clerical, caring and cleaning work.  Here are some other findings:

  • Older workers with young bosses tend to face the worst age discrimination.
  • Employers wrongly assume that older workers are less familiar with computer technology and are unable to learn.
  • Women face an extra layer of discrimination because employers want young, female staff who “look a certain way.”

Altmann recommends the government threaten  job recruitment firms with penalties unless they do more to prevent age discrimination. She said all job advertisements should clearly state the application is open to everyone regardless of age. She also recommends a national “confidence” campaign for discouraged older workers and proposed that companies offer “mature” apprentice programs.

The U.S. Slumbers on … 

The U.K. initiative stands in sharp contrast to the almost complete lack of action in the United States to combat blatant and epidemic age discrimination in the workplace. Continue reading “REPORT: MOST WOMEN’S CAREERS DIE AT 45”

OBAMA FORGOT TO FIGHT AGE DISCRIMINATION

“Obama will fight job discrimination for aging employees by strengthening the Age Discrimination in Employment Act … .”  Source: Blueprint for Change (2008)

I was surprised when I recently read that President Barack Obama pledged in 2008 to strengthen the nation’s primary law prohibiting age discrimination, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

Surprised because the ADEA is much weaker today than it was when Obama was running for President in 2008 . The ADEA was decimated by an adverse U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2009. Congress could have legislatively “fixed” the Court’s ruling but has failed to pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act for five years.  But I was most surprised because Obama himself is responsible for weakening the ADEA.

Obama signed an executive order in 2010 that allows federal agencies to discriminate against older workers by hiring “recent graduates” –  which is in direct contravention to the ADEA.  What message does it send to private employers when the U.S. government deems it appropriate to discriminate on the basis of age? Whether intended or not, Obama’s executive order serves as a green light for employers to engage in harmful, invidious age discrimination.

Meanwhile, Obama’s administration is in the process of planning a White House Conference on Agingthis year . Organizers so far have completely ignored the unaddressed epidemic of age discrimination in the workplace that is catapulting older workers into chronic unemployment, low wage jobs and forced early “retirement.”

The Conference recently announced it is partnering with the AARP, the nation’s leading purveyor of supplemental Medicare health insurance, to co-sponsor five regional forums to hear from the public “on issues such as ensuring retirement security, promoting healthy aging, providing long-term services and support, and protecting older Americans from financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect.” Promote healthy aging?  Hmmm … Do you have supplemental Medicare health insurance?

Obama’s unfulfilled campaign promise points to yet another reason that the problem of age discrimination is so prevalent in America today. Older Americans have failed to effectively marshal their resources  to insure that their interests are not forgotten by politicians the day after the election.   In hisState of the Union Address last week, President Obama focused on young families and the middle class and failed to even mention issues of particular concern to older Americans,

In my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I explore the reasons that age discrimination is treated like a lesser offense when compared with discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin.  I show that age discrimination is about perception, not reality.  It is about unfounded stereotypes and deep-seated animus. And it has a devastating impact on the health and welfare of older Americans.

* Originally published at abusergoestowork.com on January 25, 2015.