Opinion and Editorial

Ageism is a reality in different countries

Lucia Dore (Society)
Filed on December 1, 2019 | Last updated on December 1, 2019 at 07.57 pm

Worldwide younger people are preferred to the older ones - even if older managers are more experienced. However, this opinion will have to change as a large population globally is getting older.

Living in Vietnam gives interesting cross-cultural insights. I've also lived in Dubai, London, New Zealand, and, for a short period of time, in the US. The approach to age is different in all these places.

In Vietnam, it seems that anybody over 30 years (and Westerners look older than Vietnamese) is considered 'old' and people are expected to retire by 50. Families, however, do look after the elderly (however defined) who often move in with their sons and daughters. There is no state care for the aged in the country.

It's also noticeable that everyone loves mobile telephones. The trend is more visible among the younger population, but the elderly are not spared of the addiction. Yet, there are biases. If you are older, especially the one who is working, it is assumed that you would not understand technology. A woman, for instance, assumed and commented that I must be finding working difficult because of new age technology. She was a South African. But that is not true anyway; I have worked in the digital media for years.

Working and living in the Middle East is different. Old age is revered here, yet younger people are preferred to lead - even if they are usually less experienced.

In families, I assume people usually do not know the age of their parents. For example, an Emirati friend, whose father had died, didn't know how old he was - I guess he was about 65. It's because a birth certificate either did not exist or it had the 'guesstimates' of dates on it. I also understand the father didn't leave the house often and he was never spoken about.

Woman on the other hand are expected to have children by the age of 30. While I was working in Dubai, I often found people feeling sorry for me for not having children. Every now and then, I was asked by taxi drivers, often Pakistanis, about how many children and grandchildren I had. I would make up an answer, often saying I had four.

In a number of families, Middle Eastern women do not work after children are born and the man of the house looks after the family. It's very traditional. So, working and being older does not go down well. Younger bosses are usually preferred, especially in the media and public relations - except if you are a man of course.

In the West, like the UK and New Zealand, people might talk about age more and say they have respect for the seniors, but their experience isn't accorded the same worth at work place. The beauty industry supports this notion and is flourishing with products that make people look younger. Most of the advertisements are aimed at the younger generation.

Being young is better than being old and we should all strive to look younger, the industry suggests.

And it's always meant to be a compliment when one is told that she looks younger than her years. (Men don't have to look younger).

In the West, there are care and rest homes. It is not the case elsewhere though. Most regions of the world, whether in Asia, the Middle East or Africa and to a lesser extent in South America, the concept is now coming up.

However, what is true worldwide is that younger managers are preferred to older ones - even though older managers are often more experienced. This opinion will have to change as the population gets older.

Lucia Dore is a communication professional and journalist based in New Zealand

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