Aging and the accommodating workplace
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Aging and the Accommodating Workplace. Lynzee Head, M.S. Center for Advanced Communications Policy Georgia Institute of Technology November 17, 2005 Government Technology Conference Atlanta, Georgia November 17, 2005. Overview. Baby Boomer generation – “graying” of the workforce

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Aging and the accommodating workplace

Aging and the Accommodating Workplace

Lynzee Head, M.S.

Center for Advanced Communications Policy

Georgia Institute of Technology

November 17, 2005

Government Technology Conference

Atlanta, Georgia

November 17, 2005


  • Baby Boomer generation – “graying” of the workforce

  • Age-related disabilities and workplace accommodations

  • Preliminary results of studies on issues related to older adults, disability and employment

Many older workers plan to work past retirement












Plan to Work

Don't Plan to Work

Many Older Workers Plan to Work Past Retirement

Source: The AARP Work and Career Study by Roper ASW, 2002

Older worker demographics
Older Worker Demographics

  • Between 2001-2010, the number of workers over age 55 will increase 46.6%, while workers between the ages of 25-54 will increase by only 5% (SHRM, 2003)

  • By 2015, nearly 20% of the labor force will be over the age of 55 (GAO, 2001)

  • Increase in retirement age from 65 to 67 will likewise increase the number of older workers

Source: The AARP Work and Career Study by Roper ASW, 2002

Age related disabilities
Age-Related Disabilities Older 1950-2025

  • Older workers experience physical, neurological and sensory changes throughout the aging process – “age-related disabilities”

    • Arthritis

    • Diabetes

    • Heart Disease

    • Vision Impairments

    • Hearing Impairments

    • Mobility Impairments

  • Changes may affect a worker’s safety and productivity

Source: The AARP Work and Career Study by Roper ASW, 2002

Why workplace accommodations for older workers
Why Workplace Accommodations for Older Workers? Older 1950-2025

  • Accommodations address:

    • Loss of productivity

    • Safety issues

    • Assuming retirement, loss of valuable skills and knowledge

  • Examples:

    • Making existing facilities accessible;

    • Job restructuring;

    • Part-time or modified work schedules;

    • Providing assistive technology (AT)

      Source: EEOC

Data on workplace accommodations
Data on Workplace Accommodations Older 1950-2025

  • Like most disability statistics, data on workplace accommodations is relatively sparse

  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Older Workers Survey (2003)

  • Our interest:

    • Demographics of older employees

    • Workplace accommodation policies

    • What employers are doing now to accommodate older workers

Survey results
Survey Results Older 1950-2025

  • Still collecting survey results

  • No accurate count on number of employees with disabilities (self-disclosed)

  • Companies keep records of HR-reported workplace accommodations

  • Records on accommodations are difficult to keep due to the number of unofficial (ad hoc) accommodations

  • One company continually assesses and modifies accommodation arrangements

Additional insights
Additional Insights Older 1950-2025

  • Respondents report very small percentage of employees age 65 or older (~2-3%)

  • Most accommodations not related to age, but driven by medical need

  • Respondents are aware of the growing workforce of older adults, but are not targeting this group for accommodations

  • Companies anticipate supplying a greater number of workplace accommodations for older workers within the next 20 years

Consumer advisory network
Consumer Advisory Network Older 1950-2025

  • Mobility accommodations (which can benefit multiple individuals) are by far the largest type of accommodations (avg. 4 accommodations per individual with difficulty)

  • Accommodations vary by age

    • Demographics of older employees

    • Older adults less likely to get big ticket items such as modified workstations and accessible transportation

    • Receiving no accommodations consistently increases with age (except accommodations for hearing loss)

    • Less job flexibility as age increases (e.g., less likely to get flexible schedule, buddy system)

Conclusions Older 1950-2025

  • RERC research: Employers are generally not focusing on accommodations for older adults; This population is less likely to receive accommodations

  • Older workers will play a key role in the labor market in the years to come

  • Employers must take action now to prepare for this demographic – including plans for workplace accommodations

  • Employers may go to organizations for help (DOL, EEOC, State agencies, AARP, JAN) who need to be prepared to provide information on accommodations for older workers

Acknowledgments Older 1950-2025

  • Paul Baker, Ph.D. AICP, and Brad Bagwell (CACP)

  • Mike Williams, Ph.D. (RERC on Workplace Accommodations)

The RERC on Workplace Accommodations is supported by Grant H133E020720 of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of Education