silver ceiling
(SIL.vur see.ling) n. A set of attitudes and prejudices that prevent older employees from rising to positions of power or responsibility in a workplace.

Example Citation:
Our society's bias toward attractiveness is exacerbated by its cult of youth. In an (admittedly self-serving) survey conducted last year by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (aafprs), one in four employees expressed concern that their boss viewed them as less capable than younger employees. Boomers in particular are finding it painful as they crash into "the silver ceiling."
—Michelle Cottle, "Bodywork," The New Republic, March 25, 2002

Earliest Citation:
Warning: If life expectancy continues to elevate, without ongoing adjustments in the age of eligibility for "old age" entitlements, every intergenerational financing program, including Social Security and Medicare, could ultimately collapse. . .Possible Solutions: 1. Unhinge old age from the anachronistic marker of 65, and "index" entitlements to rising longevity. 2. Encourage and empower people to retire when they are ready and when they can afford to, instead of holding everyone to uniform standards. 3. Remove all economic disincentives for older adults who wish to keep working. 4. Smash the "silver ceiling" of age discrimination and make it easier for people to pursue meaningful employment in maturity.
—Ken Dychtwald, "Aging Baby Boomers," Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony, November 8, 1999


Fortified foodsWhite bread
Red wineSoda
Adventure travelBus tours
E-mail"Why don't the kids ever write?
Long-term care insuranceMoving in with the kids
4-door sedansSUVs
Customized vitamin supplementsOne tablet multi-vitamin
Personal fitness trainersExercise videos
Working as long as you want"The silver ceiling"
Source: Age Wave, LLC
—"Trend central," American Demographics, August 1999

Today's phrase was coined by Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Wave and the author of several books on the baby boom generation, including Age Wave (1989) and Age Power (1999). Silver ceiling is a play on glass ceiling (1984), an unofficial or unacknowledged impediment to advancement in a workplace due to discrimination, especially against women or minorities. In this case, the ceiling is silver to represent the hair color of a typical older worker.

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