50 and (trying to be) Not Out


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…


10 thoughts on “50 and (trying to be) Not Out

  1. This is interesting Glenys not least because in NHS applications the process means that the people
    Who select and interview the candidates do t know anything about the candidate except their CV.
    No date of birth, no name no nothing.
    Although they can work out the age from the CV, I suppose, in theory it should reduce discrimination.

    What sort of jobs are you looking for Glenys!

    • People have tried experimenting with their CVs, including a similar amount of relevant information but within a time frame that would make a person younger in age and guess what? One application gets rejected and the other gets invited to an interview. Same person, same information pretty much but the only difference on a supposedly anonymous application in the time frame of the CV. There is definitely discrimination and loads of research to back it up. I just hadn’t really believed it until it started happening to me. It’s interesting though and I would love to know why age is such a big deal in the west when it isn’t in so many other cultures. I think it’s all down to breeding, most of the world’s problems are down to breeding but that is a whole long theory that I will get down on paper one day!

  2. Hi Glenys, Yes, I’ve seen plenty of this as well – particularly for older women who’ve set off to follow their dreams, then found the path led nowhere. Or at least, it’s a lot harder making a financially viable living outside the mainstream than they’d dreamed or hoped. I’ve even thought of creating a job agency specifically for older women. As you say, we’ve got lots of experience and talent that shouldn’t go to waste! Susan

    • Susan that’s a really good idea. I was thinking that today, that it would be great to have a job agency for older women and you would be brilliant at doing that. Do it! Do it! Yes that is exactly what I have found, that it is very difficult to make any kind of living outside of a standard 9 to 5 job and now that I have realised that, nobody will employ me! I’m sure there are jobs with organisations but with age also comes a certain amount of no longer being able to sell your soul to the highest bidder just to earn a living. What will you call your job agency? x

  3. Do you think the discrimination might be due to the point you made about not being prepared to sell your soul? I feel that more mature employees are not favoured because they might also expect to be paid for their experience, which employers, are less and less willing to do. Also, I hate to say it, but I also wondered if women are still judged by many men, which they wouldn’t admit to or maybe even realise, in terms of how attractive they are, I think we still live I need a male dominated society, maybe not by law, but in our attitudes.

    • Jill I’ve only just seen this I’m sorry. The messages alert thing appears to have tucked itself away out of sight…
      You have made several valid points and, thank you for your honesty and I was hoping someone would have the nerve to say it, you are right when it is about how attractive women are. I still think that most things, problems, come down to breeding and the potential for breeding and this ties into it. I still need to be able to think how to word it all properly, and think it coherently, but it seems that a great deal of laws, fighting and all kinds of things are just to do with breeding. Past breeding age (thank goodness) maybe we are no longer valid. You are right also about not being prepared to sell my soul. I wonder if there is something about people knowing that you no longer rush around trying to please everyone once you get past a certain age? Thank you for your good wishes, I’m sure things pan out in the end x

  4. Thank you for your honesty. I’m 64 now and this piece resonates very strongly with me. I have no words of encouragement because I more or less dropped out of paid employment around the age of 52, feeling that the frequent rejection was too much to handle. Perhaps I should have been tougher or more persistent, but I had a clear idea of the sort of occupation I wanted ( strangely enough I was drawn to working with refugees) and felt I would rather find ways to do that unpaid than take a paid job that held no interest for me. I think that was possibly the right choice for me but sadly I have to say that I experienced discrimination and being undervalued even in voluntary groups ( perhaps not surprising when you consider how unpaid work is dismissed as ” volunteering”. It would have helped me if I’d known at the outset what I was up against, rather than feeling there might be something wrong with me. Good luck to you, I hope you manage to work it out.

    • Hi Susan, thank you for your honesty too. I saw, and experienced, discrimination among volunteering groups too. There was a level of patronising going on from younger volunteers who failed to see the experience that people were bringing to the situation. I also feel that it would have been helpful to have known from the outset what I am now up against and wonder why it is not spoken about more? Or maybe it is spoken about but, until you reach a certain age, it is not a discourse that resonates loudly enough to take notice of? At the moment it still feels as though there is something wrong with me but it is certainly helpful, on a personal level to know that it happens to others although not particularly helpful on a grander scale to know that it goes on. Do you still volunteer with refugees Susan?

  5. Hi Glenys. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now too and wondering what’s wrong with me? Timely Post. I agree with the points made above, but I’m going to poke my head out of the cave and suggest JEALOUSY? My last few jobs have been for women bosses, and whilst in Turkey it’s part and parcel of workplace politics, perhaps it’s common elsewhere, albeit unspoken or unconscious. (Times I thought I was using my initiative, it dawned on me much later, were viewed as showing up someone else’s failings). Younger women see us as a threat (we wont go off and ‘breed’) and older women who’ve worked their asses off, as competition, precisely because we won’t take manipulation lying down or are competent at what we do. Generalizing hugely here, but just a thought. Maybe we just crossed that invisible thread of a line into ‘over-qualified’…

    • Mel, why have I only just seen this? There is this line of over qualified as I have been told that too. People have been suspicious when I have applied for a job and they have seen my qualifications. I guess they (probably correctly) presume that I won’t be there long and that I’ll get bored. What they don’t know is that I get bored with many things! (us Number 5s get bored quickly). Other people have said that even in a job that they are hugely competent at and have been at for years, when they hit 50 they are given jobs that they already know how to do rather than being given anything new to learn or new challenges. It’s weird. I wish I’d known earlier that’s for sure. I completely get that thing about using your initiative and it being taken in other ways. I think I’m being helpful and just getting on with stuff and people see it as a failing on their part but I don’t really get how that works to be honest. There must be millions of women that this has happened to and I wonder why it isn’t more talked about. Maybe it needs another couple of generations away from the housewife generations when it was presumed that you would be at home for a couple of decades. The next generation are kick arse, they will sort it out!

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