I'm one of those who is older and this is a concern of mine. I've witnessed this close hand. My father was also in IT. His last position, in the corporate world, was one where they blatantly discriminated against older workers. At the plant where he worked they laid him off and all other workers off, who were over 40. There was only 1 person they didn't lay off; a guy who was under 40. My dad and the rest of them took the company to court, suing over age discrimination. It was quite clear so it was an easy victory.
In 2014 I was laid off, but not due to ageism. The place I was working at was being poorly managed. They were laying people off every year, starting in 2008. Then the whole place shut down in 2015, laying off all that were left. It took me months before I got my current job. I thought it was due in large part to my age, but then 2 years ago I learned at my local .NET user group that in my state there are very few .NET related jobs. This was demonstrated at one of our meetings by the recruiting firm which sponsors our meetings. It was a shocking revelation to me - during the greatest job opportunities I've witnessed for employment across the US, to learn there were so few jobs in my area. Counter intuitive. One lesson learned - as far as it is possible, if you're unemployed do what you can to determine the job market in your area for your skillset. I grant you, that isn't easy. I would try reaching out to recruiting agencies in your area to get a feel for that.
I agree with you, Steve, that in today's job market, having up to date technical skills is essential, plus having soft skills. In my current position and the agency I work for, both are very hard to come by. The technology here is often very old, with no incentive to improve it. Well, maybe one. As time goes by Microsoft drops support for various old technologies. For example, extended support for SQL Server 2008 & 2008 R2 has past. With bitter resentment, we're upgrading our SQL Server instances. But it never would have happened, if they hadn't had a kick in the pants.
Soft skills are even harder to come by. Where I work they have an attitude that is decades old - everyone must only work within the strict confines of their job title. I'm a software developer, so the only thing I'm allowed to do is write code. Under no circumstances at all am I allowed to talk to our customers. This is very strongly enforced. The only way I can use soft skills, with this employer, is if I change careers. I must either become a manager or a business analyst. Then once you've jumped to one of those two, you are never allowed to write another line of code OR ELSE!! Consequently, all employees, from upper management to the newest person hired will stay in whatever position they're in, pigeonholed there, doing only whatever that job title defines them to do. Obviously, I resent this. In my old job I was able to meet with customers on a regular basis, determine their needs, design solutions, present them with various options drawn on paper, to get their approval, etc. Then once that's done begin the process of developing the database (if needed, or adding new tables, stored procs, etc.), developing the agreed upon application, etc. I look back at that time, as a truly wonderful time. At least in my current employer environment, it isn't going to happen. I don't see any way of changing their mindset, as it's been going on for generations of management and individual contributors.