We do not all age the same. Yet there are a lot of stereotypes out there about people who are older, and “older” can be as young as 50.

I see old people all the time. They walk hand-in-hand downtown with their faces in their iPhones, and I see them in nursing homes sitting in wheelchairs in front of the television.

California senator Dianne Feinstein went to work on a Monday and put in a full day.

She was gone all day the next day because she had a pacemaker put in. She was back at work on time on the next day and interviewed appointees for cabinet positions — and not in a shy way, but in a loud, bold and intelligent way.

Feinstein was 83 years old on her last birthday.

Does age matter?

I have read on this very website about how the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR’s) next leader needs to be a young person.

It isn’t a good idea to hire based on age. For one thing, it is illegal, and for another thing, we cannot assume people have or do not have the necessary skills and abilities based on their age.

We make all sorts of assumptions about people based on age, and age discrimination is baked into our culture to the point where people are not even aware of it.

Suggesting that a position go to a woman — especially a young woman — isn’t right, either. Ideally, the most qualified person would be hired, and age or gender would not be a consideration.

Age discrimination would make more sense if we knew at exactly what age a person can no longer work and if people stopped living longer.

People who believe they are too old to learn something are buying into a self-limiting idea that is a strong part of our culture. They can learn something new — they just don’t want to.

Age and leadership

NAR openly recruits younger people for leadership positions rather than tapping into the hundreds of thousands of experienced leaders who join the association each year and who are turned away from volunteer positions because there are not enough to go around.

We can do amazing things when we tap into the talents of a diverse group of people without regard to age or gender or skin color.

The average age of NAR members is over 50, and most people who start in real estate are career changers, not new college or high school graduates. We all start out young — but there isn’t a way to keep people young and inexperienced forever. They will grow and change and age, or they will die.

We can continue to grow sales and leadership skills throughout out our lifetimes if we choose to. They are not the kind of skills that ever become obsolete, and they do not change that much from one generation to the next.

The NAR Young Professionals Network takes members of all ages. Some could argue that having the word “Young” in the name of the Young Professionals Network is showing an age bias and making the group less welcoming to older people.

Maybe if I were younger I would have the energy to take that one on, or maybe membership organizations have a different set of rules. Employers have been sued for age discrimination over less than that, and showing a preference for younger leaders couldn’t be done openly in the workplace without fear of litigation.

Age and employment

When we look for new agents or we look for leaders or need to fill jobs, we should be looking at a person’s skills and abilities.

I have met some 20-somethings who are sharp as a tack and totally with it, and others who were not.

We cannot assume a younger person will stay on the job longer, either. John F. Kennedy was in his 40s when elected President, an opportunity taken from him after only 2 years. Ronald Reagan was almost 70 and held the job for eight years. None of us know how long we will live or how long we can work.

Working with older clients

When we work with older clients, we need to refrain from making age-based assumptions.

I was once schooled by an elderly client when I suggested a 55-plus condo as a possibility.

He told me that he does not want to live with a bunch of old people. He told me he wanted to live in a building that houses people of all ages. He helped me get rid of my age-based assumptions about where people of any age want to live or how they want to live.

Last week I was told by a 92-year-old that I should be able to get by without my smartphone.

That one I am just not buying, but I politely thanked him for his advice. I am confident that if he wanted to use a smartphone, he could — and that you do not live to be 92 without making wise choices.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman.

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