Age Is More Than A Number

You know you’re getting old when…I’m betting that each of you reading this - regardless of your age – has an answer. When we think of age, we’re reminded of the physical aspects and the words of Mick Jagger, “what a drag it is getting old”. But it’s important to understand there are considerations beyond physical aging. These include how we feel about ourselves, our connectedness with society, and how we are treated by society.

Age in the workplace was the kickoff topic in February as part of the Workplace Inclusion Network series — a new partnership between VSAE and the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC). Dr. Jenny Inker, Assistant Professor & Co-Director, Assisted Living Administration Specialty Area, VCU, noted how ageism is all around us, from advertisements to comments to perceptions of ourselves and others. As workplaces include employees from multiple generations, she emphasized the importance for organizations and their leaders to understand and address ageism, and to include age as a part of their inclusion strategy.

One interesting part of the conversation dealt with generational stereotypes. Participants were asked to identify traits they associated with different generations. Rather than devolving into a new round of “ok boomer” vs. “snowflake” sparring, what came out of the conversation was hopefully a better appreciation that generational differences need not by themselves be generational barriers, and that each generation has something to contribute and learn from one another.

As importantly, we need to change the way we think about ageism. It is not something limited to older workers. According to a November 2020 article from Harvard Business Review, “Am I Old Enough to Be Taken Seriously? “young adults are more likely to report experiencing ageism at work than their middle-aged and older counterparts. Among the author’s recommendations is to start or join a working group for young professionals.

As discussed in prior columns, VSAE is committed to inclusiveness across generations and career levels. As we move into VSAE Spring conferences and events, the spirit of inclusiveness and learning across generations is on display. At the Annual Conference, we’ll celebrate the graduates of the 2022-2023 Association Leadership Virginia cohort. They will be joining a growing ALV alumni community, three of whom currently serve on the VSAE board of directors.

In addition, Lucy Firebaugh and Laiya Rollins, members of the current ALV cohort and co-chairs of the Early Career Professionals, are featured on the latest episode (#5) of the VSAE ConneXions podcast. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to listen to their episode. Lucy and Laiya share their experiences as newer VSAE members, notably the encouragement and support they’ve received from so many of you. As Laiya notes, “to have someone that’s already had the hard times, and that’s gone through the struggles and roadblocks, to guide you makes it very easy to know that you’re not alone.” And for the mentor, there is the benefit of knowing that “I’m able to help someone else the same way that I’ve been able to be helped”.

To those VSAE members who are in the early stages of their association journey, whether it be working for an association or AMC, or new to the hospitality and association support industries, please consider getting involved with the Early Career Professionals. In Lucy’s words, “(N)etworking and just connecting with people who are in a similar career stage as you is so beneficial…(I)t’s a safe space to be around others who are like you.”

As association professionals and as a VSAE community, I look forward to advancing our inclusion initiatives and charting a new course that recognizes and embraces the talents, experiences, and knowledge of our multigenerational workforce in making our organizations and community the best they can be and in developing and setting an example for others.

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