National Employ Older Workers Week is a Chance to Reflect on the Safety and Health Needs of Older WorkersPosted on by
This last full week of September is National Employ Older Workers Week. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the week “recognizes the vital role of older workers in the workforce … and aims to increase awareness of this labor segment and develop innovative strategies to tap it.”
In observance of this event, join us today for the National Center for Productive Aging and Work and NIOSH Total Worker Health® Webinar, “Productive Aging and Work: Theory, Health Data, and Practical Solutions.” The webinar will look at a model of productive aging. It will go over recent data from older workers that focus on a broad range of work-related injuries and health outcomes. The seminar will explore an action-oriented educational program designed to help organizations create workplaces and policies that support workers throughout their lives. Join us from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. EST TODAY (September 27) for this exciting chance to learn more about productive aging. Register here.
The U.S. population and the U.S. labor force are aging. In 2015, about 46 million people were 65 years of age or older in the U.S. By 2050, this figure is expected to grow to 83.7 million. In 1994, 15.5 million workers 55 years and older were employed in the civilian labor force. Since then, the number has steadily increased: 23.0 million in 2004; 33.9 million in 2014; and a projected 40.6 million in 2024 (about 25% of the civilian labor force).1
The aging of the U.S. workforce has implications for the safety and health of all workers—especially those who by choice or necessity continue to work later in life. Many of these implications reflect the assets older workers bring to the workplace, such as safer practices, more job experience, more emotional intelligence, and high job performance in most industries. These and other qualities allow older workers to contribute much to their employers and society as whole.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) understands the growing need to study how age-related changes on the workplace affect the safety and health of aging workers. NIOSH launched the National Center for Productive Aging and Work nearly a year ago. Drawing from the concept of productive aging, the center works for the safety, health, and lifelong well-being of workers of all ages. The center supports safe and healthy work environments for everyone, using wide-ranging approaches that allow workers to do their jobs as well as they can at any age. “Productive aging” focuses on the aging process across the lifespan, considering the physical, mental, and social aspects of a worker’s well-being. Productive aging applies to workers of all ages, because the working conditions that employees have early on will affect their health and well-being later in life.
To mark National Employ Older Workers Week, here are a few strategies to help your workplace better support a multigenerational workforce.
- Encourage workplace flexibility. Workers generally prefer jobs that offer more flexibility to those with more vacation days. Many workers appreciate a say in their schedule, working conditions, work organization, work location, and job tasks. Whenever possible, providing this flexibility helps multigenerational workforces.
- Match employees’ tasks to their strengths. Some older workers thrive in self-paced work environments. Consider allowing self-directed rest breaks and assigning fewer repetitive tasks.
- Avoid or reduce lengthy, sedentary work. Sitting for a long time is bad for workers at any age. Consider sit/stand workstations or walking workstations for workers who sit all day. Giving chances for onsite physical activity can help, especially when activities connect to low-cost options within the community.
- Provide and design ergo-friendly work environments. Provide ergo-friendly workstations, tools, floor surfaces, adjustable seating, and better illumination where needed. Equipment employees with screens and surfaces with less glare.
- Encourage the use of teams to solve aging-associated problems. Workers closest to the problem are often best equipped to find the solution.
- Provide training to build worker skills and competencies at all age levels. Help older employees adapt to new technologies. This is often a concern for employers and older workers.
- Proactively manage return-to-work processes and reasonable accommodations after illness or injury absences.
To learn more about productive aging visit the National Center for Productive Aging and Work website. Also see the following related blogs.
- How Employers Can Keep Older Drivers Safe at Work
- Advancing Worker Well-being Across the Working Life: NIOSH’s New Center for Productive Aging & Work
- Safer and Healthier at Any Age: Strategies for an Aging Workforce
Bermang Ortiz, BA, and Juliann Scholl, PhD
Bermang Ortiz is a public health advisor in the NIOSH Education and Information Division
Dr. Scholl is co-director of the Center and a health communication fellow in the NIOSH Education and Information Division.
- Toossi M . Labor force projections to 2024: the labor force is growing, but slowly. Washington, DC: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Monthly Labor Review, December, pp. 1–32.