How not to be a victim of ageism

How not to be a victim of ageism

There was a workshop I attended this week entitled, “Ageism and Feeling Invisible.” The organization hosting the event was one of the networking groups I joined since arriving in Chicago. This group is specifically for women over 50.

This subject was particularly interesting to me because I have felt as I look for jobs here (corporate coaching or consulting with non-profits), it feels like my age is working against me. There was a time in my career not long ago that I had no trouble working with a recruiter, being recommended for numerous jobs, and being offered a position after every interview. Now it seems, just getting the interview has become a major challenge – I have even been dismissed by recruiters for fundraising jobs!

Last week I had a phone interview with a consulting firm that works specifically with non-profits. I felt with over 20 years’ experience in the field (more than half in C-level positions), I would have a lot to offer this organization and their clients. Doing my research, I came across a photo on their LinkedIn page of a recent group of new hires. No one in the photo appeared to be older than 25. Furthermore, from the photos of key staff on their website, aside from a few of the senior partners, their staff appeared to be under 40. While I felt I did an adequate job outlining my qualifications during the interview, their youth was prominent in my subconscious for sure.

During the workshop, I learned that I am certainly not alone in my fears of ageism in my job search. The room was filled with women in their 50s and 60s with numerous stories that bordered on age-discrimination. The discussion, however, did bring me to consider another perspective. When asked to address the question, what will you do if you experience ageism? I told a story from much earlier in my career when I felt I was perceived as “too young” and not taken seriously. I also noticed as many women told their stories of experiencing ageism, they were in fact expressing some biases against a younger generation.

This got me thinking that the youth feel undervalued as well and perhaps the solution is to bridge the gap; maybe we can get more respect if we’re willing to give it. While there are certainly times I want to smack my “knows everything” teenager upside the head to bring her down to reality, most of the time – and especially now as she matures – I value her knowledge. The fresh new awareness college class discussion creates is always something I look forward to her sharing with me.  Plus, she is my go-to person for questions about social media, new music, what I should watch on Netflix, and celebrity gossip. Knowing her keeps me well rounded.

While I first thought “age-discrimination” when I got the dismissive e-mail from that consulting firm after my phone interview, this workshop helped me see it differently. I once had a boss who said, “If you can’t fix something, accentuate it!” That’s perhaps where we are falling short as people over 50. By succumbing to our fears of being victims of ageism, are we not becoming our own worst enemy?

I recently applied for a job at a local running retailer. It seemed like it might be a nice way to get out of the house, meet new people who shared my passion for running, and the small paycheck could support my habit. When I went in to interview with the store manager, I didn’t feel like there was a lot at stake and that helped me be less guarded in the conversation. I chose to hit the age-issue head on: “From what I’ve seen from shopping here, I imagine I am older than most of your employees. I’m in my 50s and this is why that’s a good thing for you…” I proceeded to demonstrate that I understood who their customers were and what I knew about the field of masters (over 40) runners. I got the job.

As I sat in the workshop this week, I started to wonder why I didn’t take that approach in my interview for the consulting position. What if I had acknowledged the photo of new hires from their LinkedIn page and went on to explain the value I could bring to a diverse team? What if I showed respect and admiration for their young staff, and added the value that a seasoned, non-profit executive who’s been in the trenches could contribute? Well the outcome wouldn’t have been any worse that it was, right?

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This what (almost) 54 looks like. Diversey Harbor. Chicago, Illinois. March 2019.

Someone pointed out that ageism, is probably the only “ism” (sexism, racism, etc.) that everyone will experience, although in the context of why young people should try to be more understanding. It would seem that we all need to be more understanding. I received a text message from my daughter the other day (she had no idea I was attending this workshop). It went like this:

Daughter: “I’m so ageist I hate old people”…”but I hate a specific kind of old person so you don’t fall into that category yet”

Me: “Yet :)”

Daughter: “it’s old people who think they’re smarter than me cause they’re old”

I remember those days early in my career trying to be taken seriously. Now, after a number of  years in a thriving career, I feel I’m back to lacking self-confidence. I don’t think I’m alone. And that’s just wrong! If we do not believe in our value, we’re playing the victim and doing nothing to help our cause.

Does ageism exist? Absolutely! So, steer clear of those organizations. You don’t want to work with them anyway. Let’s hold our heads high. Believe in our abilities and communicatee that value. The right people will take notice! But also have respect for the contributions of every generation. We all have so much to learn from one another. Diversity of all kinds makes our experiences so much richer.

And if you need some incentive, go back and look at my post from two weeks ago and the links I shared to stories of some “active seniors” defying their age.

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Last week, I also promised to be accountable to you and report back on my workouts for this week. I’m happy to report I did get out for 2 runs (total 5 miles) outdoors and 1 lap swim (800 meters) at my new gym. Warmer temps this week helped. Thanks for reading and keeping me motivated.

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On becoming an “Active Senior”

On becoming an “Active Senior”

Several years ago I was looking though the YMCA brochure that had come in the mail. After seeing all the wonderful activities in a section titled “active seniors” I said to myself, but out-loud, “I want to be an active senior.” My husband who had been in ear-shot acted like it was the funniest thing I ever said. I was still a few years shy of 50.

I have always believed that we should never stop growing, and learning, and must remain active. “Sharpen the saw” is one of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People according to Stephen R. Covey, and I couldn’t agree more. Whether we are talking mind, body, or spirit, if we don’t continue to feed growth, we die.

There are plenty of stories about “senior citizens” who have defied the norms and accomplished some amazing feats late in life. Runner’s World had a story about Julia Hawkins who not only took up competitive cycling at age 81, started running competitively at 100. Orville Rogers still weight trains and runs at 99 and didn’t start running until he was in his 50s. How about 107 year old Fauja Singh, who is thought to be the oldest marathon finisher? He didn’t start running until he was in his 80s. No excuses for the rest of us, right?

I will admit that in regard to some activities, I have said something to the effect of “that ship has sailed.” We all have physical limitations, and our desires change. Sometimes moving out of one’s comfort zone isn’t always necessary for growth. For example, standing out in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, which sounded like a great idea when I was 25, is the furthest thing I’d enjoy doing now. Running the Midnight Run in Central Park, however…

The point is, regardless of your physical limitations and changes to what we find enjoyable, there are always new things to try, goals to achieve, and desires to fulfill. The menu of items for “active seniors” involves cultural and artistic pursuits, ways to meet new people, classes to take, and exotic foods to prepare and taste.

Those are some remarkable stories from people that didn’t start until later in life. That said, while you are still young(ish) IS a great time to work on getting fitter and stronger so you can be active physically as well as mentally and spiritually. It’s never too late should be a reason to start now, not put it off any longer.

As I age (as a runner) my goals change. At (almost) 54, I do still have some time goals (like qualifying for Boston 2021 as I enter a new age group), but some days my goal is to just be out there moving. Running keeps me fit and it keeps me doing other healthy habits like strength training and remaining more conscious about nutrition.

Being physically fit, I have also found makes everything else in life a lot easier. My grocery store is just 3 blocks away and I walk. And I walk home with several bags of groceries. I can take the stairs if the elevator is too slow. I always beat the GSPs ETA on how long it’s going to take me to walk anywhere.  And I have on occasion fit into one of my daughter’s dresses (“that’s just wrong,” she says!).

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You don’t have to run marathons to be physically fit (although they are such an amazing accomplishment that they can kick start other goals you once thought impossible).  But you do have to move.  I’ll admit I’ve been struggling through this last half of winter. Getting out to run since getting back from the Surf City Half Marathon trip has been tough. I just joined the gym near me, so I have access, in addition to treadmills, to a pool. Lap swimming has always been my go-to cross-training and a way to keep moving when, for whatever reason, my running is compromised.

So, what are you doing to become an “active senior?” What are your goals and desires as you approach midlife and beyond? Let’s start a conversation and if you want to get more active, reach out to me.

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The benefits of being “a dog person”

The benefits of being “a dog person”

I have a dog. I didn’t always have a dog. Actually, until I was 10, our family pet was no more than a goldfish. Then my parents allowed me to adopt a kitten. That was it though. They liked to travel and a cat allowed for more flexibility. Plus, a cat didn’t need to be walked at all hours of the day in all kinds of weather.

I considered myself a cat person. I adopted a cat when I finally had my own place that allowed pets. When I got engaged to my husband who had a severe cat allergy, I found a new home for the cat. That never sat quite right with me, because he got to keep his dog (who was his from a previous relationship). I decided I was never going to like that dog!

Since we lived in a building that wouldn’t allow dogs, the dog stayed at my mother-in-law’s and he went there to care for it. I didn’t. When we got our first house five years later, Cody, a Miniature Schnauzer, came to live with us. I was ambivalent. Then that first morning with the dog in the new house, that damn dog was so excited to see me get up! I immediately thought, “okay, dogs are different.”

In the days and weeks and years that followed, this dog tried so hard to make me love him every chance he got. And I started to care for him as much as “his dad” did. I was a dog person! Now more than 20 years and two more dogs later I have Enzo. Enzo is an 8-year-old Australian Shepherd-Poodle mix (Aussie-Poo, Aussie-doodle, or designer mutt depending on who you’re talking to).

I absolutely love this dog! When my life was taking so many difficult turns, he was there. I am never completely alone because I have him. He never quite became a runner like my previous Wheaten Terrier, Malachy, but he is so special in his own way.

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Malachy and Me. As we appeared in the May 2006 issue of 201:The Best of BergenPhoto Credit; Ted Axelrod

I have learned that having a dog is really good for people. Dogs force people to move. Walking my dog is a big part of why I’m able to make my step goal on days I don’t run. Have you ever noticed that people shopping at all-night grocery stores are buying pet food? We won’t make the effort for ourselves a lot of the time, but we won’t let our pets go without. That’s why dogs are so good for the elderly and people who live alone.

Most of the people I have met in my building since moving to Chicago are fellow dog owners. Even people in the street walking their dogs are so much friendlier and more approachable. Our dogs give us something in common immediately. With the severe cold snap we had in Chicago a few weeks ago, the only people I saw out in my neighborhood (although for only five minutes at a time) were dog owners!

There are times when having to take a dog out at all hours of the day in all kinds of weather can be a bit of a drag, but that is offset by the unconditional love they give us. He is always – 100% of the time! – absolutely happy to see me! If you live alone – or have teenagers – you need that.

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Enzo’s first visit to Lake Michigan. Chicago, Illinois. July 2018.

 

Make Valentine’s Day about giving

Make Valentine’s Day about giving

My feelings about Valentine’s Day have fluctuated over the years. When I was a kid, it was great! It meant being greeted in the morning with chocolates from my Dad and then receiving little Valentine’s from all my classmates. I went to a small Catholic school and all the kids gave everyone in the class a little card. All was good. No bad feelings created by anyone feeling left-out.

In High School Valentine’s Day became a fundraiser. The student council or some similarly enterprising group sold carnations in a variety of colors to represent the relationship between the sender and recipient: Love, Like, Friendship and the dreaded “Secret Admirer.” I never had a boyfriend in high school. I exchanged flowers with a few close friends and remained grateful for that.

Through college and my single years, whether or not I looked forward to Valentine’s Day was directly linked to whether or not I had a significant other. I don’t recall anything I did all of those years that was particularly special or memorable. By the time I got married, I didn’t really care anymore, except to make it special for our daughter. When making Valentine’s Day about giving rather than receiving, I found special meaning beyond the commercialism created by Hallmark and FTD.

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My Daughter’s first Valentine’s Day; wearing a gift from mom and dad, her first piece of jewelry from Tiffany – a necklace she also wore to her prom. River Edge, New Jersey. February 2001.

Any Valentine’s Days that came up short, I realize now are the times I lost sight of that. I had expectations about what I should be receiving, rather than just focusing of what I was giving, and what, beyond tangible gifts, was positive about the relationship. I think part of my issue through the years was the expectation those first Valentine’s Days created. My parents always exchanged lovely, thoughtful cards, flowers, candy and other special trinkets. My Dad set the bar pretty high. Although so did my mom.

I found a nice summary on The History of Valentine’s Day on history.com. The conclusion is that 85% of all Valentines are actually sent by women – hopefully women who have no expectation of getting one in return. That tells me that perhaps women, in expecting men to take the lead, may be setting themselves up for disappointment. The strength of any relationship shouldn’t be judged by what you do or don’t do on February 14th. Every day and any day can be Valentine’s Day.

Now, with my truly amazing boyfriend, I seem to do just fine – today and every other day! One of the things I cherish in this later-in-life, second chance at romance, is that I believe we are both very conscious of things that may have been taken for granted in our previous relationships. We are more mindful and present perhaps. Although I think that might just generally come with age, too.

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Finish line at the Surf City Half Marathon. Huntington Beach, California. February 2019.

This year for Valentine’s Day my boyfriend and I will not have 800 miles between us. That alone is a gift I will cherish. I do have a small little trinket as a symbol of my love that I am looking forward to giving him. What are your plans? I want to hear from you. What are your thoughts about Valentine’s Day now?  What differs from when you were a child, teen, and young adult? Are you doing anything special? As an empty-nesting parent, do you feel more connected to your partner on Valentine’s Day than you did when the kids where at home? If you’re single, do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you care? What remains important about this day to you?

Whatever your plans or relationship status, know that you are loved and appreciated. Thanks for reading.

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More on Goal Setting for the New Year

More on Goal Setting for the New Year

My goal has always been to publish this blog sometime mid-week. Everything I’ve read about blogging and social media tells me that is the best time to assure the most readership. My analytics would support that. And yet, here I am posting this over a weekend – on a Saturday night, no less. And I haven’t made my goal once this year!

My daughter has been home for 3 of the last 5 weeks on winter break. There were holiday commitments and celebrations. One of those week’s I was in New Jersey. Yesterday she had her wisdom teeth removed. Today it snowed. Lots of excuses, I know.

I read a couple of articles this week that friends shared on social media. They were spot on about goal setting for the new year. I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions per se. These articles outlined better approaches to new year goal setting. This one discusses the idea of giving yourself “permission to pause.”  The author argues that immediately following the stress of holidays might not be the right time to see success with the intentions we set for ourselves.

“Most of us go through life jumping from one thing into the next. This is just the way life is, and it’s the way society is. We believe it’s acceptable to be busy all the time and spread thin across all of our daily activities. We work hard, and forget to play. We take care of others, and forget to take care of ourselves. For some, they experience chronic stress that is dulled by stimulants, like caffeine or pick-me-ups, like sugar and alcohol. For others, they simply burn out and have a hard time getting through the day.”

Agnew, K. (2018, February). *8 Warning Signs You’re Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted” Retrieved from www.theheartysoul.com

Another article suggested that New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t go into effect until March.

“The end of the year is a great time to reflect on where you are in your life. Thinking about what you haven’t yet accomplished, and what aspects of yourself you’d like to improve, are natural to do when one year ends and another begins.

The trick is to separate the decision to make a change from the day that you are actually putting yourself on the path to change. So take that resolution you made and give yourself the next eight weeks to figure out how you are going to achieve your goal.”

Markman, A. (2019, January). “Why you should start your New Year’s Resolutions on March 4” Retrieved from www.fastcompany.com

I think this idea of pausing after the stress of the holidays is important. Plus taking into account the time it requires to plan how we are going to achieve our goals is paramount for success as well. We need more time for decompression, self-care and reflection before we’re ready to commit. I decided that January is a month of reflection and re-grouping and once I’ve set some intentions, February is a practice round to get a feel for what I need to do and to tweak things so I can be more successful. As a runner and coach, this works really well since it becomes a lot easier to commit to running come March than it is now.

Another thing that filled my social media feeds this past week was the 10-year challenge. One of my friends posted, “Let’s try something different than what you looked like 10 years ago… What were you working on/trying to accomplish? How’d it work out?” It just so happened that it was 10 year to the day of my first interview for a job that I got which took my career to the next level salary-wise. I had accomplished a goal that set me on a new path.  How did it turn out? Admittedly, it wound up being a rough 10 years, but, as I responded to her, I am drawing on the memory of who I was then – at my best – to become an even better version of myself this year.

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