Older legislators in Vermont are disregarded and overlooked during session, as noted by senators and representatives, young and old. However, age discrimination permeates the Vermont workforce beyond just the chambers. 

For the older American, being disregarded in a meeting, overlooked for a promotion, then pushed into retirement is unfortunately the norm. Age discrimination appears in job recruitment, during employment, and in retirement decision-making. With a third of Vermont’s workforce falling between the ages of 65 and 74, the potential for ageism to further manifest in the workplace is worrisome.

As of last March, Vermont led the nation in job openings per person. There are jobs to fill, but employers’ biases immediately rule out older candidates. Thus, a large pool of untapped potential among the older population remains. 

Older employees bring invaluable experience to the table that makes the workforce more inclusive and efficient. Intentionally creating a multigenerational workplace gives rise to varying perspectives, meaningful mentorship opportunities, and enhanced problem-solving, more so than a workplace that doesn’t prioritize intergenerational collaboration. Despite these reasons, ageism persists as employers fail to make the workplace more welcoming.

In making a position attractive and attainable, employers should meet the needs of older employees. Only 55% of Vermont employers provide retirement benefits, making many current and future older folks financially insecure. Older folks in historically disadvantaged groups are disproportionately impacted, as Black and Latinx Americans are half as likely as white Americans to have any retirement savings at all. 

By lacking the socioeconomic infrastructure to address financial challenges, Vermont leaves the current and future older populations falling through the cracks.

It’s vital to an aging society to reflect upon what an inclusive workplace could look like and how we can raise conversations to reevaluate our policies in order to uplift voices in need. Without immediate, intentional and institutional change, we will soon be left behind too.

Naomi Valdez

Student at Dartmouth College 

Hanover, New Hampshire

Pieces contributed by readers and newsmakers. VTDigger strives to publish a variety of views from a broad range of Vermonters.