Gray-cial Profiling as Noted by AARP

A recent AARP email grabbed my attention and I ended up reading several of their Disrupt Aging blog posts. One introduced a term that creatively captures the concept of age discrimination: “gray-cial profiling.” According to the January 18 post, at least two major companies are guilty of this offense.

First, there is the tech giant Google, which has my favorite web browser. Google was named in a lawsuit for age discrimination recently. The organization is known for its young employees and their playful work environment. AARP reports that the firm’s hiring practices reflect the sense that “anyone over 40 is deemed too dated for data.”

The other company is Facebook, which I—unlike many boomers—have yet to make much use of. In response to the growing incidence of cyber-bullying, Facebook posted a notification about hate speech. In their statement, they promised that they will remove any content that attacks an individual or group because of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. But as AARP notes: “Age is not included in Facebook’s discrimination policy.”

In addition, some major store chains are targeting older shoppers as potential shoplifters. It’s bad enough when individuals do or say things that marginalize older adults. We all may be guilty of this at one time or another. Sometimes it’s a seemingly innocent joke. Other times, it’s assuming a person is somehow impaired just because their hair is gray. But when an organization diminishes or insults older people, especially those companies that target their goods and services toward older buyers, that should raise a red flag.

The more aware we are of companies that do not value the contributions, ideas, or wisdom of people over 50, the more we can allow our voices to count—effectively voting in the marketplace to offer or deny them our hard-earned money.

Pay attention to organizations with ads that promote negative stereotypes about aging. Notice greeting cards or magazines that portray older individuals in a demeaning way. Speak up when you see someone patronizing another person who happens to be older. The more we see gray-cial profiling and age bias when it occurs, the better able we are to stand up to it. To challenge it. To help stop it. As the old NBC public service announcements used to put it, the more you know…

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