Guest post from Ceri Wheeldon of FabafterFifty.com
I have lost count of the number of meetings I have been to discuss the over 50s 'marketplace' where the names that brought up as representative are Judy Dench, Helen Mirren and Michael Parkinson, all vibrant lively people, but all considerably over 50 , at 81, 70 and 81 respectively. Nobody ever seems to mention Liz Hurley or Brad Pitt aged 50 and 52.
I know that often when I walk into these meetings my hosts are expecting somebody resembling Norah Batty, complete with wrinkled stockings, and when I have young PR people call me to sing the praises of their latest 'fashion' range with elasticated waistbands which they know my over 50 readers will love, they take my 'no' as a sign that I must be deaf or slow to understand rather than not interested, so repeat their sales pitch, this time speaking louder and more slowly!
As the founder of an online community for women over 50, and with a long career in recruitment, I am constantly being approached by people in their 50s and early 60s who are genuinely concerned about the perception of the over 50s when it comes to looking for jobs.
As we are having to work for longer and retire later we really need to challenge the way potential employers view the over 50s. One lovely lady I met who was looking for a job in retail was really feeling the pressure to look younger. She felt that she was constantly being overlooked, despite the fact that she could easily show that she was able to build an excellent rapport with customers. In fact she had taken the decision to invest in botox and filler treatments in the hope that this would make a difference. What a shame that she had felt driven to do this, not because she wanted to, but because she felt she had to.
Age should not be a barrier to employers seeing what the over 50s have to offer. A couple of years ago there was a programme on TV all about the 'Town that didn't Retire'. Nick and Margaret, Lord Sugar's former aids on The Apprentice took a group of over 60s and under 25s and arranged work placements with local employers in the building trade, restaurants, estate agents and a sweet factory. At the end of the programme it was the over 60s that employers were keen to keep - while most of the under 25s fell by the wayside. What the over 60s group were able to demonstrate were their commitment, ability to learn new things, reliability and excellent communication skills. One builder who was I believe close to 70 said that physically the work was now too demanding for him, but the company recognised that he was an excellent person to have on board to teach the younger people, and his ability to make calm decisions under pressure was a great asset to have as part of a team. The employers surprised themselves at the decisions they made at the end of the programme- it really made them think differently how they should view older job applicants in the future.
The Fabulous Fashionistas featured in a channel 4 documentary were all feisty ladies in their 60s, 70s and 80s with incredible energy and style! No fading into the background wearing slippers dressed in beige, but living colourful, energetic lives...and creating quite a storm and strong following on social media. I have been lucky enough to meet some of these fabulous ladies at various events- they are thoroughly enjoying their time in the limelight - are constantly in demand at fashion and over 50s events- still work (as models, a fashion retail assistant, an artist, choreographer ) and are challenging perceptions of ageing...and life well beyond 50 every day.