Ageism


This post is sparked by the controversy around Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Also read in the paper today how Virat Kohli is standing by him.

Why is age so important? Why do we believe that just because a person is old, he is not capable. In the context of Dhoni, is it really because he has supposedly become old so his reflexes are dimmed? Is it not possible that he was having a bad day that day? Of course the conversation about his age has been on for a while. Every time he fails with the bat, knives are out. But the moment he scores big, people start talking about how his experience pulled the team through. His reflexes behind the stumps are as sharp as ever. I don’t know how many of you watch the matches regularly, but next time when he is keeping wickets, watch him carefully. You will see it on his face. The brain is constantly ticking. His match awareness shows through. Now is it age or experience? Yes sports is a very physical and fitness is paramount but as you grow older, you learn to balance the two. Experience and fitness. He is lucky that he had Virat supporting him.

But look beyond sports. Ageism has become a concept. Except for India and few other countries, age has become a big factor. The population is old and therefore ageism has become a burning issue.

Traditionally, One has always believed that up to a certain age, a person is considered productive. After that he or she becomes a liability and has to be looked at in a patronising way. To be suffered till he retires. Retire by itself is a concept. Who decided that 58 or 65 or whatever is the age to retire? Of course one argument would be that place needs to be made for new people joining the work force. Hmm shouldn’t you create more jobs for these new people?

Driven by this thinking, there was a time when people would mentally switch off from work and wait for their retirement. It was almost like giving up on life.

But that mindset has changed dramatically. People want to stay productive lot longer. They want to work longer. They keep themselves fit and agile. Physically and mentally. But the problem is, the traditional myopic view hasn’t changed. All employers still follow the rule of defining when the person will not be productive. Hiring is done accordingly.

There are many things that go against older people. “He will be too set in his ways”. “He won’t be in tune with the latest”. “He will be a technological challenged person”. “Health will be an issue”. “He will be slow and will get left behind in the fast moving world”

Start ups started by 20 somethings tend to hire a younger lot. With. Belief that it is the young who is hungry to make a mark and will fit in to the start up culture better.

If you ask me, it is a lot of bullshit.

Couple of decades back, people used to get married at a much younger age so everything used to happen much earlier. By 40-45, a person would have done everything he or she was meant to do in life. After that it was just a matter of time.

But that’s not the case anymore. People marry late, have a focus on what all they want to do in life. Kids happen late. So the responsibilities start late.

Back in the old days, by the time a person retires, his kids had kids. But now the kids are more often than not, still pursuing higher education.

This is the realisation that has made people look for ways to stay fit, stay connected with modern trends. They want to be productive lot longer.

But the world around them wants to scream in their ears that they are old! (Perhaps the world thinks that because of age the person might be going deaf). It is hell bent on putting them to pasture. To sideline. To tell their life is over.

Experience has stopped counting for much. You see, the pace has changed, the way of working has changed and the experience of 20+ years is not going to be relevant. What will this old person know about Digital?! How will he have insight into the millennials and Gen Z minds?!

No issues with that. Everyone takes time to change but Change does happen.

Experience does count. In a rush to do many things at the same time, things are faltering. Lack of experience is showing. A Hardik Pandya will take time to mature. He will need someone experienced to manage the maturing process. That is where experience counts. Managing the process to be successful.

We see 10 things this, 10 things that of people like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or whoever. Notice these things have been tested over a period of time and have proven to be successful. Yes they all started young but if we talk about them now, we talk about what they learnt over a period of time.

In India, with its young population, ageism perhaps won’t be a big topic but over a period of time (after all the population will age too), ageism will become a topic of heated discussion.

Perhaps we should learn from the ‘experience’ of other ageing nations? 🙂

At this point of time, driven by a certain arrogance of youth, this post might sound like a venting of an old man but we all grow old and we all know what Karma is 🙂

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