We’re not only living longer, we’re also enjoying better health in our later years. Yet ‘ageism’ or the feeling that our age is in the way of us leading a fulfilling life, is still a barrier. In fact, women are more likely to suffer than men. Here are some of the most common age barrier obstacles, plus tips on how to overcome them.
Overcome these age barriers
“I’m too old for…”
“If I was younger, I would…”
“They won’t want to employ someone my age…”
Do you feel like your age is holding you back from pursuing things you’re passionate about? Don’t let it. While there are some realities about getting older that we simply can’t ignore (hello, creaky knees and pre-10pm bedtimes), there are plenty of occasions where age is just a mindset. Here’s how to overcome those age barriers (perceived and real) that might be holding you back.
Age in the workplace
Job hunting? Data put out in 2013 by SARS showed that SA women earned, on average, around 28% less than men – despite our country’s anti-discrimination rules. While in 2015, 702 Radio concluded that the South African gender pay gap had narrowed to an estimated 15-17%. This, however, is still a far cry from zero. The truth is, the pay gap between men and women only widens with age, as women start from a lower base and tend to get smaller pay increases.
Sidestep the barrier:
De-age your CV
Keep your CV to two pages. It needs a personal statement tailored for each application, highlighting specialised skills and big career wins. Focus concisely on what you can do, without detailing every job in your work history. This is so you don’t appear ‘overqualified’ – usually a euphemism for “You’re too old and/or experienced”. Your qualifications should be contemporary – for example, forget ‘shorthand’… Today’s top skills include ‘Excel’. Find free CV templates on sites like www.monster.co.uk (under ‘Career Resources’ tab), or in Microsoft Word (when opening a blank document, you’re given the option to open one of the ‘resume’ templates instead).
Don’t be afraid
Women are less likely to ask for a pay rise or go for promotions than men, and often won’t apply for jobs unless they tick all job-spec boxes. See pay benchmarking sites like Payscale and My Wage (find ‘salary check’). Knowing the ‘going rate’ is quite a useful negotiating tool.
Look the part
In recruitment, there’s a practice known as ‘unconscious bias’ – where hirers recruit people similar to them. To get ahead and possibly set yourself up for success, research the organisation, what people wear and how they interact. Find out if the company is more formal or relaxed, and dress to fit into the company’s culture at your interview.
Take a different route
Many corporates have strict retirement ages, says The Appointment Firm’s Orla Ollewagen, so moving into this environment in your 50s can be tricky. Consider exploring other opportunities like consulting, rather than signing up as a permanent employee, or you could look at running your own business.
Age barrier: feeling past your dating prime
Dating in your 40s can be daunting – especially if you’re ‘re-entering the market’ after a divorce. Today, many people meet online first as it helps to break the ice and get to know someone before meeting in a bar or restaurant.
Sidestep the barrier:
Find a niche
Online dating actually makes it much easier to connect than trying to meet people in your day-to-day life. Plus, there are hundreds of SA-specific dating portals. We like www.datingbuzz.co.za – as it allows you to limit matches by age. Or sign up for age-specific services, like at www.singlesover50.co.za or www.mature-dating.co.za. The more specific you are, the greater chance you’ll have of finding someone you’re compatible with.
Change your perspective
When assessing potential matches, it might be more beneficial to think about ‘life stages’ and where you’re at, versus hard age limits. Ask questions like, “Are your kids also out of school? Or, “Are you still working?”
Age barrier: Not being favoured when adopting a child
While there’s no legal call for it, many local adoption agencies choose to set their own guidelines for the upper-age limit of adoptive parents. When it comes to having children and growing your family, research shows that women over 40 often have a harder time than their younger counterparts.
Sidestep the barrier:
Show your strengths
Single and over 40? When applying for adoption, show the strength of your support structures (friends, family, colleagues), and evidence of your health and fitness (like a GP’s assessment, and gym membership). Katinka Pieterse, chair of the National Adoption Coalition of SA, says older single women often make great adoptive parents, especially for kids with special needs, as they’re often able to offer more individual attention.
Consider adopting an older child of any sex and ethnicity to cut barriers like waiting time. This will also help you overcome the age-gap concerns some agencies have. Older kids are harder to place than babies.