Lately, there has been much public discourse about ageism and the hiring of older workers. I am concerned that this may lead to polarisation of the populace along age; even an "us" against "them" divide.
Mutual understanding on both sides of the divide is needed. Whether young or old, one must change one's mindset about oneself and the other.
Without a doubt, we are now harvesting the fruits of the older generation's hard labour in the early years of the nation's founding. We should be thankful and respectful of their contributions.
However, a senior person must not take this to mean that he has earned his badge and is now entitled to preferential treatment, such as the reserved seats in the public transport system.
Such seats are given up on a voluntary basis and, through time, societal norms will be harnessed in carrying out such considerate acts towards senior citizens.
Likewise, at the workplace, senior workers should be part of the larger eco-system and not exclude themselves from the team out of a "holier than thou" mentality because of their age. One should be humble to accept instructions and make amends, when need be. Reach out to co-workers, young and old.
As for the young, we need to accept that slowness comes with age.
Let us be patient and see things from the senior's point of view, such as when we are driving. Crossing the road with the green man blinking may be stressful for many senior pedestrians. Honking at them adds to the stress.
At the workplace, we must be prepared to repeat our instructions, speak a little louder or demonstrate what is expected of the senior workers. Engage them and laugh with them.
It is a fact that the silver tsunami has hit our shores. We are an ageing society. It is not something we could wish away. We all age, regardless of our station in life, rich or poor. If we perceive this as a "burden" now, sooner or later, we will join this burden.
The old should be humble in order to be respected. The young should bestow respect because doing so is no less dignified.
Come to think of it, the divide is not even necessary. Ultimately, we all have a need to be needed, irrespective of age.
Lee Teck Chuan