A Framework for Productive Aging and Work

Posted on by Deborah Hornback, MS; Juliann Scholl, PhD; Paul Schulte PhD; and James Grosch, PhD
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The aging of the U.S. population has led to a number of changes in the workforce, particularly a movement of the worker distribution toward older ages2, 4. By 2022, about one-third (31.9%) of Americans aged 65 to 74 years will still be working (Toosi 2013). The impact of a longer working life can be significant in both positive and negative ways. On the positive side, work is the main means of income for consumption and savings, serves an anchoring function in society, and can be a source of dignity, social connectedness, and purpose. Negative consequences of working longer may include increased morbidity and mortality from injuries, longer recovery times, burnout, job lock (needing to stay employed to retain health insurance and benefits), age discrimination, job insecurity, periods of unwanted unemployment, and less non-work time (Schulte et al. 2018).

In response to the increasingly aging U.S. worker population, in 2015, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) established the National Center for Productive Aging and Work (NCPAW) as part of its Office of Total Worker Health® (TWH). Productive aging emphasizes the positive aspects of growing older while minimizing the losses associated with aging at work. Individuals can be expected to remain engaged and productive in their paid work life as well as other aspects of life such as volunteering, caregiving, continuing education etc. (Schulte et al. 2018). NCPAW developed a four-element conceptual framework for productive aging that could be applied to work:

  1. Life span perspective—meeting the needs of workers of all ages
  2. Comprehensive, integrated approach to occupational safety and health—utilizing a range of education and intervention strategies
  3. Emphasis on positive outcomes for both workers and organizations—targeting both worker (e.g., safe environment, job satisfaction) and organizational (e.g., low turnover, lower health care costs) outcomes and understanding how they mutually influence each other
  4. Supportive culture for multigenerational issues—learning to manage generational differences and building on the strengths of workers of all ages to create an inclusive, productive workplace

NIOSH has published this framework for productive aging and work in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The Framework provides a foundational and comprehensive approach for addressing the needs of the aging workforce. Stakeholders can use this framework to implement programs that advance productive aging in workplaces and adopt practices that meet the needs of workers of all ages.

For more information on the aging workforce visit the NCPAW webpage.

We would love to hear your ideas on productive aging and work.


Deborah Hornback, MS, Health communication specialist, NIOSH Education and Information Division

Juliann Scholl, PhD, Co-director of NCPAW and a health communication specialist in the NIOSH Education and Information Division.

Paul Schulte PhD, Director, NIOSH Education and Information Division.

James Grosch, PhD, Co-director of the Center and research psychologist in the Division of Applied Research and Technology.



1Butler RN [1985]. Productive aging: Enhancing vitality in later life. New York: Springer Publishing.

2Blue L, Espanshade TJ. [2011]. Population momentum across the demographic transition. Popul Dev Rev 37: 721-747.

3Rowe JW, Kahn RL [1996]. Successful aging. The Gerontologist 37(4): 433-440.

4Schulte PA, Grosch J, Scholl JC, Tamers SL [2018]. Framework for considering productive aging and work. J Occup Environ Med. 60(5):440-448. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001295

5Toosi M [2013]. Labor Force Projections to 2022: The Labor Force Participation Rate Continues to Fall. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Monthly Labor Review.


Posted on by Deborah Hornback, MS; Juliann Scholl, PhD; Paul Schulte PhD; and James Grosch, PhD

13 comments on “A Framework for Productive Aging and Work”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    the utility I work for is discriminating against older workers. the hr department is forcing retirement and firing people forcing them to get lawyers to beg for their pensions.

    By 2022, about one-third (31.9%) of Americans aged 65 to 74 years will still be working – how many of those folks retire versus die by 74? All this country does is fear monger people to work until they die rather than pay them the social security they worked hard for and deserve.

    As a buisiness owner for a Well Repair Company in Charlotte NC, I find this article very interesting. As long as you come to work, age doesn’t matter!

    I think working for the elderly is very important. Without work the risk of depression is greatly increased.

    By 2022, about one-third (31.9%) of Americans aged 65 to 74 years will still be working – how many of those folks retire versus dying by 74?

    We do not have the data to provide a complete answer to your question. However, life expectancy data tell us that when adults in the U.S. reach 65 years old, they will live, on average, an additional 18 years or so. When it comes to labor force participation rate, 2018 BLS data indicate that 27% of workers 65-74 years old are still working, whereas 8.7% of workers 75 years and older are still working. Given these data, we would expect that retirement is more likely than death for the age group in question, although the magnitude of this difference is not clear. To get a more definitive answer, data from a national survey, such as the Health & Retirement Study, could be analyzed.

    Beautiful article. Equity and inclusion matters. Older adults need to be equipped and allow to do the type of jobs they are able to do and have pleasure in doing because, age doesn’t matter and no body knows everything.

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Page last reviewed: June 7, 2018
Page last updated: June 7, 2018