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Encounter that word in any crossword puzzle, and its letters only fill three spaces.

Talk about its effects in real life and it becomes a “four-letter word.”

George Bernard Shaw famously observed that “youth is wasted on the young.”

He recognized the enormous amount of untapped potential still present in those living “past their prime.”

History offers examples worth remembering.

Winston Churchill did not become prime minister of Great Britain until he was 65, leading his nation through World War II and forging a grand alliance with the United States that led to a remarkable victory.

Sixty-five was also the age of a one-time motel owner who used his monthly Social Security check of $105 to buy a white suit, wear it with a string tie, lay claim to an honorific from his home state, and start franchising what is now a fast-food favorite.

Along the way, Col. Harland Sanders concocted a “secret recipe” with 11 herbs and spices, but the real recipe for his success with Kentucky Fried Chicken was his own considerable life experience.

Far from the cliffs of Dover and the hills of Kentucky, a woman was further advanced in years than either Churchill or Sanders when her country called her back into government service. Golda Meir was 70 when she became Israel’s prime minister.

And back in this country, it’s worth noting that the two most recent occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue were both septuagenarians when they took up residency in the White House.

A newly minted senior’s aspirations may not include high political office or a fast-food fortune. Instead, they may simply be seeking work in their chosen profession past age 50.

If so, they could very well confront a professional paradox. Several jobs may remain unfilled, yet an application is turned down by a human resources functionary with an email that calls the applicant “overqualified.”

“Overqualified” really means “over the hill.”

It’s rare these days to even receive the courtesy of a response. Instead, most HR departments simply acknowledge receipt of the resume and a promise to get back in touch if they have any interest.

Think of it as the internet version of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Occasionally, empowered HR executives will call attention to their new approach for screening job candidates.

At an area chamber of commerce social gathering not so long ago, a female human resources chief bragged that “when we get a resume from a white man over 50, it goes straight in the trash.”

Sure, that HR director may have had one wine spritzer too many — but in this instance it served as a type of truth serum.

And the truth is that “wokeness” now prevails in the workplace.

“Equity” has replaced “equality.”

And “equity” demands vengeance.

Today’s 50-year-old male was an entry-level employee when the “Old Boys Club” of company executives obstructed or perhaps even harassed young female workers.

Maybe that happened to the aforementioned female HR director.

Whatever the case, one prominent business website features entry after entry from female executives bemoaning the old days and emphasizing that they’ve “paid their dues.” 

But many of their former male colleagues now find themselves paying dues for a “club” to which they never belonged. Reparations are not paid in cash. Instead, the cost comes in unrealized income for these now-unemployed senior professionals.

These men may eventually find work in a service industry — maybe retail or fast food. (Kentucky Fried Chicken, anyone?)

It’s either that or stay home and try to solve crossword puzzles.