How old are you?
I’ve been asking this question a lot lately…of friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even strangers. Some people are quick to respond. Others ask a question in return. Some roll their eyes. A few have gotten angry.
But I’m asking for a good reason: to find out if they qualify for Minnesota’s first-ever “50 Over 50” list. Launched by Pollen and AARP MN, the list is designed to recognize that a person’s contributions—and possibilities—aren’t limited by age. Ironically, however, that means asking the age question.
Answers vary. While a handful of people willingly revealed their age, many more responded like this:
- “Old enough to know better and young enough not to care.”
- “39 and holding.”
- “Why do you want to know?”
- “I’m about to turn 50 (or 60)…and dreading it.”
- “I stopped answering that question years ago.”
The list is also designed to honor 50 incredible Minnesotans age 50 or older who are living life on their own terms and doing amazing things, all while improving the lives of others.
Of course, whether to divulge one’s age is a personal decision. I respect that. (I’m 57, by the way.)
I also know that some people are more sensitive about their age than others. As a result, asking can feel risky. So can responding, especially for those who fear age-related discrimination.
For instance, an AARP survey found that over one-third of registered voters 50 and older reported that they or someone they know has experienced age discrimination. And nearly two-thirds of respondents think that people over age 50 face age discrimination in the workplace.
But more women are concerned about such discrimination—and more sensitive about their age—than are men.
For instance, a good friend who turned 50 last year—one of the first of generation Gen X to do so—wasn’t keen on revealing her age at the same time she’s eager to advance in her career. She had to be talked into being nominated—by three different people.
The male colleague who asked them described the whole experience as awkward and uncomfortable. He also went on to say that he would never feel uncomfortable asking a man about his age. And he doubts a man would ever decline this nomination because of the age factor.
What do you think? Do you own your age or are you sensitive about revealing it? If so, why? Do you see a difference between how men and women view age and their willingness to talk about it? What can we, individually or as a society, do to help people own their age?
Share your thoughts (and your age!) on Twitter using the hashtag #OwnYourAge. Then visit 50over50mn.org to nominate someone today. Nominations close Friday, May 13.
Contributed to Pollen by Bev Bachel
Bev Bachel (@cleverlytweets) is a writer and IdeaGirl who excels at bringing brand voices to life and transforming ideas into award-winning content. Author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It, Bev is passionate about helping people of all ages find rewarding work (and play!).