Monday, July 23, 2012

Ageism in Malaysia

A conversation between two women in their mid 50s

Madam X: So how have you been keeping? Not seen you in ages!

Madam Y: I'm fine, sorry I could not find the time to catch up until now, been busy, what with work and all.....

Madam X: Working?? Why so old ready still must work....? At our age, we should be resting. Let the children support us.

Madam Y: Well the children do their part, but I enjoy keeping busy and active. Don't see myself quitting anytime soon!

Madam X: Wow really? Do they still accept people our age at the workplace?

I'm glad to say there are many men and women in their 50s and above in the Malaysian workplace today. However ageism is also rife, not just in the workplace, but in society at large. And the ones guilty of this are younger Malaysians - the ones who should be more modern in their views, but who sadly are not!

At one of my previous workplaces, some colleagues were hiring for their department, and going through resumes, it was a huge joke to them that several of the applicants were in their mid 40s. "Why does anyone that age need a job?" one girl snorted. I'm guessing her mom's a housewife for life, hence her narrow minded perception.

Sometime after at another organisation, a new hire walked in. A pleasant middle-aged lady, her appearance instantly created a sensation among some of the junior staff, they were terribly amused, and walked around pointing the woman out to other colleagues who had not noticed.

Now which is more amusing? The fact that a new hire ( for a position that requires a substantial amount of working experience) is someone older, or the behaviour of the junior staff members. Maybe someday, when they are several decades older and still in the workforce, they might not think it's so funny after all.

Is Hilary Clinton a joke then? Someone who has had a successful career as a lawyer, First Lady and Senator, and who is now America's foremost ambassador as Secretary of State, a global joke for not wanting to spend her menopausal years knitting quietly by some fireside and harping at Chelsea for not producing grandchildren?

I know there is still talk of ageism in the West. But it is much better there than over here. During my student years overseas, I encountered senior citizens behind the counters at McDonald's, as tour guides, working at libraries and many other places.

Ever seen an older person behind the counter at McDonald's here? Everyone would pity them, saying their kids had either abandoned them, or they never got married and had kids, hence having to suffer in old age.

No doubt things are changing, I increasingly see many older people going about independently on their own, and even opting to come out of retirement to work again. Kudos to these folk.

I don't know whether it is an Asian thing or not (I'm guessing it is). That if you're older and still working, it is because you desperately need the money, and it is something to be looked down upon. Well some older people work because they need the money, and some because they enjoy what they do.

With regards to the former, I don't see it as something to be ashamed about. Better to be independent and earn your own keep at any age than to be dependent on other people. To be honest, I very much admire these people.

In an age, where there are so many young and able bodied people who come up with many excuses not to get jobs and build careers, but try to find other means to live luxuriously, these men and women who still get up in the morning and go out there to contend with the rat-race are shining examples for us the younger generation to emulate.

I dedicate this post to all the older people out there who never let ageism stand in their way, whether is it pursuing a career, learning something new, or embarking on some adventure or another.

Age is only a number, a physical marker of our time on earth, in no way does it confine us.


Most Desirable said...

Everyone gets old, though we never think about that most of the time. Don't worry, that will come to us one day. Be kind and respect older folks. We must realise that we are actually looking at ourselves. To work is everyone's right and I guess jobs must remain open not mainly for the young but the old as well. Great blog!!:)

Small Kucing said...

sometimes they want to work to motivate themselves. to have something to do.

Jothi said...

Thank you 'Most Desirable' :) Yup to work is definitely the right of everyone, even the disabled.

Jothi said...

Hi Kathy! Yes better to work and keep themselves occupied, an active mind is a healthy mind.