50 and (trying to be) Not Out

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This is more of a personal post and I am going to try and not rant but can’t promise anything…

In 2013, 4 years ago, I gave up my full time job, sold the house and set off on an unknown journey of storytelling and writing. A few months earlier I had gone to Nepal with my son and we had walked for a month up to a height of over 5600 metres. It was at the very top end of what I could do physically and it was a life changing experience in many ways, not least because we went in monsoon season so were clambering over land slides and we didn’t die but it came pretty close. Nearly dying makes you look at life differently. I also realised that our physical health, although we can help it along, involves a great deal of good fortune. I returned to work and the popular refrain, found in many offices, of ‘When I retire I’m going to…’ suddenly rang a bit hollow. It made me wonder what exactly I was waiting for. Did I really have to wait another 20 years to do what I really wanted to do even though I did also enjoy my work? I was 47 years old at that time.

I decided to take my own fate into my hands and throw the cards up in the air (let’s see how many cliches I can fit in here). I decided that, having experienced how amazing it was to have a functioning body, it was too risky to wait until retirement to do stuff. What if my body packed in earlier than that and I never got to do anything? I also decided that, at the age of 47, I was young enough to take some time out of, so called, normal life, and then be able to get back into employment a few years later. Wrong!

Blindly I set off into the sunset in my old post office van with my trusty lurcher by my side. No job, no house and happy as happy can be. I studied storytelling and started telling stories hither and thither and this opened up a whole new world that I had never known existed. I wrote, and had published, two books, something that I had always wanted to do. I became involved in volunteering with refugees, another life changing experience. The money was trickling in but it was flowing out because that is what money seems to do. A time had come to go back to work but with a whole set of new things that I had learnt along the way and, in theory, finding work should not be a problem but it has not turned out that way.

It would seem that at 47 it is true that you can pack your job in and find another job but past the age of 50, this is no longer true. I had heard all the statistics and rumours that women over the age of 50 struggle to find work but I didn’t listen or, rather, I didn’t believe it. Over the past year or so I have applied for jobs, been for a couple of interviews, although most applications don’t get as far as the interview stage, and nothing. I have applied for jobs for which I am definitely qualified and a million other reasons why there should be no reason why I shouldn’t get the job. Apart from my age. So, I set about asking people of their experiences and asking various employers of their opinions and, yes, it is definitely true. Women over the age of 50 are way less likely to be employed. In fact, statistically they are the least likely people to be employed. Men over the age of 50 also do not get a great deal but it’s not as bad as women. It has, naively or not, come as a bit of a shock.

I have searched articles and statistics and forums and blogs to find out why. There are many articles about the fact that this phenomena exists but there is no actual reason why. I am none the wiser. There are soooo many people saying that this is, indeed, the reality but no reason why. I would dearly love someone to enlighten us all, brutal honesty and all. In theory, women over the age of 50 should be good to have around. Years of experience, generally no young family around and dramas reduce dramatically as the years go by. I have spoken to women who, also, are not even getting to the interview stage even though they are ideally placed for the job and, at the age of 50, there are at least 15 years of work left to do before getting to this mythical retiring age which is rapidly disappearing into the horizon anyway.

What is going on?? There is loads of evidence that points to age being the only factor for not getting an interview and how come I didn’t know any of this? Have I been living in a vacuum? Does everyone else know this? Will someone enlighten me please?

Also if anyone is able to offer an old codger a job that would be great too…