The newspapers and television’s news channels were full of praise in January for Captain Chesley B Sullenberger age 57, a pilot with USA airlines, who managed to land his powerless aircraft in the New York’s Hudson River without the loss of a single life.
It was said that his experience and mature judgement saved the passengers. There was a lot of comment at the time about his age and the fact that many firms push older workers into early retirement, losing useful experience.
While the story has some merit in reminding us that, at the age of 57, there were people still able to fly a large airliner and make instant critical choices in emergencies, it also to me suggested the reporter saw wonderment that this “old man” could be a hero.
Here in Singapore, if you reach 60, you have to have a medical every year before you can continue driving a private car even on our straight well-lit roads, let alone fly a jumbo jet.
The human resources manager will surely ask himself if the guy cannot be trusted on the roads at 60 because of physical failings then why should I employ him? Will he need to take time off because he is often sick? Yet, funnily, in my many years as an employer, I found it is the younger ones who always seem to be taking medical leave!
Socially and in business, we continue to judge people by age.
Good for Ms Seno Yuko, owner of the La Catina restaurant in Changi Village, for refusing to give her age when interviewed by a reporter on The Sunday Times (ST 25th Jan) doing a story on the strong winds affecting businesses near the coast. The journalist rather snidely reported this as “she declined to give her age”.
What on earth does her age have to do with either owning a restaurant or the winds affecting the number of guests?
This is not an isolated case, it seems all newspaper reports have to carry the age of the person mentioned. In my opinion, this smacks of ageism. Encouraged by such reporting, we are too quick to judge the person mentioned. “In a tragic car accident John Tan (21 years old) was killed on the PIE …”. or perhaps you read a report: “A driver (65 years) is being held after hitting a pedestrian…”. Tell me, have you not already made up your mind about these two drivers. I bet you thought the former was probably driving too fast and the latter couldn’t see well enough.
Except in the case of a story about being the youngest person to gain entrance into Oxford or an elderly person flying single-handedly around the world, age should be irrelevant.
By continually focusing on age, journalists encourage us to stereotype people. Our national newspapers will show John and Mary Tan (61) dancing at the local community centre, asking us to admire the fact that these old dears can still totter around on their two feet. Hey guys, there are still a few Septuagenarians running marathons!
But if you are under 40, and believe ageism has not anything to do with you, think again.
My last academic qualification was gained 46 years ago. How relevant was that course content in today’s world? If you gained a degree in computer technology more than five years ago, then the course was probably developed 4 years before that. Your lecturers’ experience in industry certainly went back even earlier than that. What did you learn that would be of value today?
Basically anyone who got a Degree or Masters more than three or four years ago, had better start studying again. The spread of knowledge is so much faster today than in your parents’ time. Changes in technology are moving at a breathtaking speed. We are all senior citizen, no matter what age The Sunday Times prints, unless we make the effort to keep abreast with developments.
That means reading research papers and professional magazines regularly. How often do I hear senior professionals say, “I rely on my son or daughter to keep me updated on social networking sites and on developments on mobile devices”? It doesn’t matter where or from whom you gain knowledge but, if you are not to become an early retiree, you have to stay in touch. Ask yourself how interested you are in life itself. What is your professional age?
Are you already too old?