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ageism and aging stereotypes about leaving a legacy

Image by Sergio Mena Ferreira on Unsplash.

Once you get “old” the world doesn’t want you to think about gainful employment.

“Older people don’t want to work for money,” you’ll hear. “They want to leave a legacy.”

That’s a convenient lie for potential employers. It’s a dodge to avoid hiring anyone over 40 for a freelance gig.

The publishing world sees demand for books on helping people consciously replace traditional retirement with jobs. And they usually meet the demand by encouraging “older” readers to replace market-level income with the satisfaction of leaving a legacy.

The truth is, not everyone wants to leave a legacy.

In her book Hell and Other Destinations, Madeleine Albright said she got tired of people asking about her legacy. She was too busy living.

Bill Gates reportedly said in an interview, “‘Legacy is a stupid thing! I don’t want a legacy.”

I don’t either.

“Leaving a legacy” has become a euphemism for “donating your time to work without pay.”

I’ve already left a legacy through my work as a college professor and through my books and consulting. But I didn’t do those things to leave a legacy. I got paid.

We’re urged to spend our time on unpaid volunteer work…especially work involving children.

My relationship with young children is pretty straightforward. They run away and try to hide. I decide I should work and earn money to pay for a qualified caregiver.

The best legacy is one you leave while you’re not thinking about it.

I suspect former President Jimmy Carter didn’t think about his legacy when he hammered nails with Habitat for Humanity or met with international leaders. He just did what he wanted to do.

Bill Gates was quoted,  ”I liken what I’m doing now to my old job… I want a malaria vaccine. …Understanding science and pushing the boundaries of science is what makes me immensely satisfied.”

I must admit I enjoy getting notifications that someone’s reading or citing an article I wrote many years ago, as an academic. I still get letters thanking me for writing my book on relocation.

When you’re told to forego work that’s paid at market rates, in favor of “leaving a legacy,” you’re being subjected to stereotypes.

People of any age should be able to choose how they spend their time. You may reach a point when you can devote 100% of your time to charitable enterprises – and you want to.

Or you may prefer to continue generating income and profits.

You can still do a lot of good while you’re getting paid. When top surgeon use their skills to give you a longer life wit. Inh higher quality, do you discount the value of their service because they’re well-compensated?

If you want to do some good, you can donate generously to charity, so a paid professional can do their jobs better than an amateur ever could.

If you want to volunteer your time and skills, you can do so at any age. I meet dedicated people in their twenties and thirties who donate their time to animal shelters, children’s reading services and more.

You leave a legacy when you do what feels right and what you enjoy, using your unique talents, assets, and skills. No need to fulfill the stereotypes that make other people feel good about watching you give up your life “because you’re old.”