05/14/2007 03:41 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Let's Outlaw Mandatory Retirement Ages: It's Discrimination, Pure and Simple

On the day after so many of us were graced with the privilege of talking to a now-senior-citizen who brought us into this world, I have been thinking of an institutionalized form of discrimination that dishonors many of our quite abled senior citizens.

I'm talking about mandatory retirement ages. They are prevalent in the private and public sector, for workers and executives alike.

A "free marketer" might say that well, a company has the right to kick out the CEO, or even a salaried worker, over a certain age.

But what if that person is still fit of body and mind, and can still execute his or her duties?

We already outlaw pernicious discrimination based on gender, religion, ethnicity, skin color - and in many jurisdictions, sexual preference as well. And we do this for the private sector as well as the pubic.

We should expand these noble efforts to outlaw most mandatory retirement age policies. Not only are they discriminatory, but they are disrespectful and hypocritical of a society that teaches us to respect our elders.

While I do recognize mandatory retirement ages are probably necessary in law enforcement, firefighting, aviation, and other industries where performance can be affected by the decline in alertness and endurance that comes with age - we should honor accumulation of years far, far more than we should penalize it.

The seasoned teacher, executive, or clerical worker likely has accumulated judgement, perspectives and wisdom based on their journeys through life and work.

We, as a society, would do well to have that expertise readily available to us in the workplace

If older workers are still able to perform their duties, it would be in service of our better angels to let them.