The aging workforce
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The Aging Workforce. Cynthia L. Roth Viscardi Center Ergonomic Technologies Corp. Exactly Who is an "Older Worker"?. They are full time and part time, temporary and permanent, white-collar and blue-collar Older workers may be 45, 55, or 65 years old, in their 70s, or even older

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The Aging Workforce

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The aging workforce

The Aging Workforce

Cynthia L. Roth

Viscardi Center

Ergonomic Technologies Corp

Exactly who is an older worker

Exactly Who is an "Older Worker"?

  • They are full time and part time, temporary and permanent, white-collar and blue-collar

  • Older workers may be 45, 55, or 65 years old, in their 70s, or even older

  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) applies to individuals aged 40 and over

  • Using the ADEA definition, the number of older workers will significantly increase as all baby boomers have reached age 40 in 2004

New bls stats released

New BLS Stats Released

Aging workforce

Aging Workforce

  • Older workers continue to work and retirees return to work for financial reasons, socialization, and wanting to contribute/feel valued

  • However, with personal savings significantly lower than in the past, the most compelling reason to work for older Americans is economic



  • Explore how public and private employers are preparing for an increasingly older workforce likely to be comprised of more persons with disabilities

  • Identify promising business and industry practices on all aspects of recruiting, hiring, retaining, and accommodating older workers and workers with disabilities

  • Develop short and long term recommendations to address the gaps in research, policy, and practices that would support the adoption of employer strategies to hire and retain an older workforce with disabilities

Aging employees

Aging Employees

It is the smart administrator, engineer, safety professional, counselor, facilities manager, director or health provider who understands the value of the veteran employee – as well as the problems and risks facing employees when they grow older

We want the brain power, loyalty and the experience and knowledge, but not the lost work-time days, workers' compensation claims or any of the negatives associated with injuries/illnesses

More statistics

More Statistics

Employment among people aged 55 and older has increased to an all-time high of 40.4%

(Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010)

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that, by 2016, 1/3 of the total U.S. workforce will be age 50 or older, and will increase to 115 million by 2020

(U.S. Census Bureau, 2010)

The growing number of older people, in concert with the trend to continue working at older chronological ages, is resulting in a shift in workforce demographics

And more statistics

And more Statistics

In 2003, 13% of the workforce was age 55 or older, and this was projected to increase to 17% and 19% in 2010 and 2050, respectively

(Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010; Fullerton & Toossi, 2001)

This increase comes at a time when the entry-level workforce is in rapid decline, and the age of retirement is increasing from 65 to 70 years

(Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010)

During this same time period, labor force participation is expected to decline or remain the same in the 16 to 54 age group, with the growth in the labor force coming from the increased participation of persons age 65 and older (Eyster, Johnson, & Toder, 2008).




These demographic trends are even more dramatic in Europe and Japan (Nyce, 2007)

As the workforce ages, the incidence of disability rises (Bruyère, 2006; Kampfe, Wadsworth, Mamboleo, & Schonbrun, 2008)

The strong correlation between age and disability is clearly demonstrated in the findings of a University of Wisconsin, Trace Center study (2001) that shows that the incidence of disability among working-age Americans is: 9.5% for workers in the 18 to 24 year old range, 20+% for workers in the 45 to 54 year old range, and approximately 42% for workers in the 65+ age range



Older people are also more likely to have multiple disabling conditions and to have chronic disabling conditions (Kampfe et al., 2008)

Many common accommodations for employees with disabilities would also be useful in retaining older workers

Although many older people are likely to have one or more conditions associated with a disability, these conditions do not prevent them from working (Kampfe, Harley, Wadsworth, & Smith, 2007)



However, the perception that such conditions are age related, and perhaps a natural and unavoidable result of aging, has been found to deter employees from requesting accommodations, and to negatively influence the decision to provide accommodation (McMullin & Shuey, 2006)

Job retention can be achieved by providing accommodations and other interventions to prevent early retirement

Why do older workers work

Why Do Older Workers Work?

Several studies have found that a majority of older workers indicate that they plan to work past the traditional retirement age

This trend can be attributed, in part, to the reduced value of retirement portfolios/income and improved health/consequent increased life expectancy, and is expected to continue (Administration on Aging, 2007)

But older workers also work because they want to — because they are highly engaged in their work, satisfied with their jobs, and committed to their organizations (Galinsky, 2007)

Be happy

Be Happy

Pitt-Catsouphes and Matz-Costa (2009) define “engagement” as “a positive, enthusiastic, and affective connection with work that motivates an employee to invest in getting the job done, not just ‘well’ but ‘with excellence’ because the work energizes the person” and find that older workers have consistently higher levels of engagement

Engaged employees use less health care, take fewer sick days, are more productive, have longer tenure, and create stronger customer relationships (Pitt-Catsouphes and Matz-Costa, 2009)

Work balance

Work Balance

Mentoring works

Mentoring Works!!!

By 2020, 25 million Baby Boomers, who make up more than 40% of the U.S. labor force, will be exiting the workforce in large numbers and leaving many jobs to be filled

With their departure, the work characteristics that define the Baby Boomer generation — results-driven, ambitious, idealistic, competitive, optimistic, and people-oriented — may be lost unless companies creatively develop strategies to simultaneously retain older workers and transition their knowledge to younger workers (Morton, Foster, & Sedlar, 2005)

Potential brain drain

Potential Brain Drain

These workers will also take decades of accumulated organizational knowledge with them, and this “brain drain” could result in the loss of key information about customers or practices that could be devastating to organizations (Pitt-Catsouphes & Matz-Costa, 2009).

November 2011 issue of the AARP Bulletin, theUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School reported losing 10% of its employees over 50 years of age every year

To address this concern, the Medical School implemented several strategies to retain older workers and avoid the loss of institutional knowledge over the next 10 years

More brain draining

More Brain Draining

The loss of expertise through retirement is further compounded by the projected job change patterns among current workers Estimates show that Boomers (46 to 64 years old) will have four to six jobs over their working life, Gen X’s (30 to 45 years old) will have 10 to 12 jobs over their working life, and members of Gen Y (15 to 29 years old) will change jobs every one to two years

Now we are talking money

Now We Are Talking Money

The projected high rates of turnover are cause for serious concern among businesses and government that will see their profits significantly reduced by the costs associated with filling vacant positions

According to a recent article by Allen (2010), the cost of turnover ranges from 25% to 250% of the position’s annual salary, depending on the skill requirements of the job

Off site employees

Off Site Employees

While the loss of experienced staff is a challenge that all companies and government agencies must address off site employees, technology has improved the workplace and the work environment by enabling workers of all ages to complete work from other locations

Workforce and workplace assessments it

Workforce and Workplace Assessments It

Succession Planning

Assess how retiring workers will affect their organization

Address skill shortage challenges due to staff attrition

Create a work environment that attracts qualified workers of all ages

Manage a multi-generational workforce

Build an employer brand that attracts and retains top talent

How to do it

How To Do It

Recruitment - Employers should take full advantage of the opportunities to select individuals with specific talents, experiences, and perspectives from diverse age groups

While approximately 25% of companies have adopted policies to hire retirees, 52% indicated their practice of rehiring retirees in the absence of any formal policy

Federal guidelines

Federal Guidelines

On August 27, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announced a Final Rule that makes changes to the regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Section 503) at 41 CFR Part 60-741

Section 503 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities (IWDs), and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals

Federal guidelines1

Federal Guidelines

The Final Rule also makes changes to the nondiscrimination provisions of the regulations to bring them into compliance with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

The Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on September 24, 2013, and becomes effective on March 24, 2014

However, current contractors with a written affirmative action program (AAP) already in place on the effective date have additional time to come into compliance with the AAP requirements. The compliance structure seeks to provide contractors the opportunity to maintain their current AAP cycle

Federal guidelines2

Federal Guidelines

However, current contractors with a written affirmative action program (AAP) already in place on the effective date have additional time to come into compliance with the AAP requirements

The compliance structure seeks to provide contractors the opportunity to maintain their current AAP cycle

Fed guidelines

FED Guidelines

The Final Rule establishes a nationwide 7% utilization goal for qualified IWDs

Contractors will apply the goal to each of their job groups, or to their entire workforce if the contractor has 100 or fewer employees Contractors must conduct an annual utilization analysis and assessment of problem areas, and establish specific action-oriented programs to address any identified problems

Why retain an older worker

Why Retain an Older Worker?

More willing to work different schedules

Serve as mentors

Invaluable experience

Stronger work ethic

More reliable

Add diversity of thought/approach

More loyal

Take work more seriously

Have established networks

Higher retention rates

Do aging workers need any special accommodations

Do aging workers need any special accommodations?

Yes and no (how’s that for an answer)

A well-designed work place benefits everyone, young and aging

Workstations and job tasks that are matched to the needs of the individual employee are always best

Different conditions for different workers may be needed to meet the needs of any employee, not just one that is older

However, that being said, there are some things older workers need to work safely and comfortably

People with Disabilities may need some AT

Assistive technologies

Assistive Technologies

Assistive Technology or AT is any item, piece of equipment or product system that is used to increase, maintain or improve an employee’s functional and productive capabilities

After an evaluation to determine what AT, if any is appropriate, employees can be trained on the AT

The aging workforce


Because compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is crucial in all types of workplaces today, accommodation may require AT that will maintain an employee at work or as part of a Return to Work process This occurs in the context of the ADA’s “reasonable accommodations” requirements The technology constitutes the most appropriate form of accommodation for the employee

The aging workforce


Assistive technology is the key to the performance of an increasing proportion of jobs in our economy

It has transformed the lives of employees, not just for communication but for most job tasks

With the aging population workforce, the assistive technologies can be the difference between working and not being able to perform job tasks

The aging workforce


It is essential that employers and employees become familiar with the AT of today and the benefits they provide to any type of organization

Need a reminder to take your meds

Need a Reminder to Take Your Meds?

Magnifying with light

Magnifying with Light

Are there any specific health and safety concerns related to aging workers

Are there any specific health and safety concerns related to aging workers?

  • Most studies say that older workers tend to have fewer accidents, but when an older worker does get injured, their injuries are often more severe

  • They also may take longer to get better

  • The types of injuries can be different

Are there any specific health and safety concerns related to aging workers1

Are there any specific health and safety concerns related to aging workers?

  • Younger workers tend to get more eye or hand injuries, while older workers who have been working for many years report more back injuries

  • Many workplace injuries are the result of doing jobs with risk factors for repetitive motion injuries that develop over time, cumulative traumas

Are there any specific health and safety concerns related to aging workers2

Are there any specific health and safety concerns related to aging workers?

An older worker may report more musculoskeletal injuries since they've had longer for the condition to develop

When anyone, no matter how old they are, is pushed to work harder than they safely can, there is a risk for injury

Because older workers tend to have more severe injuries when they do happen, it's important to make adjustments to work stations or work patterns to make them as safe as possible

It's also important to make sure a person is suited for a particular task and is safely able to do it

Keeping older employees

Keeping Older Employees

Create alternative career paths

Provide opportunities for knowledge transfer

Adopt a life cycle work/life approach

Provide extended leave arrangements

Assist employees in making informed retirement decisions

Engage "alumni" workers

What is so significant about human aging and our bodies

What is So Significant About Human Aging and Our Bodies?

Loss of strength

Loss of muscular flexibility

Loss of joint range of motion

Diminished postural steadiness

Reduced grip strength

Reduced nervous system responses

Reduced blood flow and tactile feedback

Reduced visual capacity

Slowing of our mental processing

Return to work

Return to Work

It is critical for physician, employee and supervisor to understand the importance of returning the employee back to work as soon as possible

If the employee is to return under modified or light-duty, all job changes should be clearly established beforehand and enforced

There must be an action plan or return-to-work agreement written to get the employee back to full potential as soon as possible

Return to work1

Return to Work

Developing a RTWA requires:

Coordination between the employee, employer, union, employee assistance program (EAP) and/or treatment professionals.

Compliance with the organization’s policies and legal obligations, as well as medical recommendations

Prior notification through organization policy that a RTWA would be expected as a condition of continued employment

Return to work2

Return to Work

Reassignment to light or modified duty can help reduce the overall costs and length of disability

It is usually offered for a limited time

Starting with less work and fewer hours than regular job requirements and are gradually increasing as abilities return until the person is able to fully function in the job

Employer, manager and employee must agree in advance what the restrictions will be and what the target date is for resuming full responsibilities

Return to work3

Return to Work

To make the return-to-work program successful, carry out ongoing evaluations, updates and review of the employee’s progress and job functions

Smaller organizations usually monitor progress less formally than larger organizations that may employ experts to evaluate progress

Conduct Ergonomic audits of risk factors of each job and reduce them



  • “Under the ADA, the employer must first attempt to accommodate the employee in his/her current position

  • Light duty must be considered as a reasonable accommodation only if an employer has light duty jobs in general or if an employer reserves (vs. creates) light duty jobs for employees with occupational injuries

  • Reassignment must be considered as an accommodation of last resort,”

    • says Ted Clark’s Legal Corner, Light Duty Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Return to work for aging workforce

Return to Work for Aging Workforce

Find the jobs that possess the greatest physical risks to the various soft tissue groups through an organized, systematic ergonomic process that is quantifiable

This will assist in prioritizing the jobs that need to be changed as well as those that could be used for return-to-work and to keep employees working longer

Let’s talk about Cross Functional Training

The aging workforce

What should an employer do to assist employees -- at any age -- to prevent injuries to muscles and other soft tissues of the body?

Reduce work with static muscle effort (e.g. sustained, fixed postures)

Increase use of mechanical lifts

Keep work in "neutral zone"

Eliminate twisting of the upper torso

Stretch upper body throughout the day

Continue or begin regular stretching programs

What causes work related absences

What Causes Work Related Absences

  • Surveys indicate that the most common causes of

    short-term absence are:

    • Minor illnesses such as colds, flu, stomach upsets and headaches

  • For long-term sickness absence the most common causes are:

    • Musculoskeletal injuries and back pain-ERGONOMICS

    • Stress and mental health difficulties

Return to work4

Return to Work

  • Over the last decade, there has been an increased focus in research on work disability and return to work following occupational and non-occupational injuries and illnesses

  • This rising interest is partially due to the increase in musculoskeletal disorders and their considerable societal cost

  • The US working population is an aging one

Return to work for aging workforce1

Return to Work for Aging Workforce

Better management of injured workers is always a goal of medical, vocational and employer professionals

A new challenge adding urgency to the overall system is the rising age of workers

Fears of injury, disability and loss of productivity are held by the employees themselves as well as employers, medical professionals and vocational experts as the working age increases

Newly designed systems and concepts that are working well with injured workers hold the same answers for the aging/ and people with disabilities in the workforce

Return to work for aging workforce2

Return to Work for Aging Workforce

  • The commonality is a system that can reduce costs and lost workdays for the injured and also be used to implement preventive measures for workers undergoing normal aging changes

  • A healthier and more productive workforce is possible whether injury or aging or disabilities is the focus

The insurer must establish and maintain an injury management program

The Insurer must establish and maintain an Injury Management Program

It is a coordinated and integrated set of policies and procedures addressing all aspects of injury management from time of injury, including:

• treatment

• medical management practices

• employment

• rehabilitation

• retraining; and claims management systems

The employer has reporting and injury management obligations under the insurers Injury Management Program of which they must be made aware, and with which they must comply

Return to work program

Return to Work Program

The employer must establish a Return to Work Program in conjunction with the workers, an approved rehabilitation provider, and the industrial union where applicable.

This Program must be consistent with their insurers Injury Management Program and include:

Policies and procedures (eg. reporting procedures and early notification procedures) for the rehabilitation of an injured worker (including where necessary vocational rehabilitation)

Arrangements for medical treatment; and

A summary of all parties responsibilities who are involved in the program

This program should be displayed at each workplace and include all steps in the process commencing from the early notification of the injury, right through to the return to work strategies

Definition of modified work

Definition of Modified Work

Some define "modified work" as temporary assignments within an employee's abilities, knowledge and skills

These positions are developed using the employee's abilities/restrictions as determined by the employee's treating physician

They may also include responsibilities and tasks taken from the employee's regular job, when the employee cannot perform full duties

Return to work5

Return to Work

  • Aging

    • A natural process

    • It will happen to all of us

    • We want to work as long as we want to work

    • We want to be healthy as we age

    • We might be disabled but we can work

    • We want to enjoy life

The aging workforce

THANK YOUCindy RothKornreich Technology Center at the Viscardi Centerwww.viscardicenter.org516 465 1614

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