The official social security retirement age increasing since 1998 and employers are looking for ways to best manage an older workforce. With a rapidly aging workforce comes increased absenteeism as a result of health problems. For example, according to a CPWR Data Study on aging construction workers, older workers are more likely to experience back, trunk, shoulder, or knee pain. Older workers are also at higher risk of fatal injury on the job. Approaching employee health from an integrative perspective of Total Worker Health® is essential in managing these changes in the workforce. Protecting workers by adapting their positions to increase safety, promoting healthy practices, managing work life balance, addressing muscular pain, and offering preventative care are all parts of a good comprehensive employee wellness plan for aging workers.
On-site Health Programs & Preventative Care
Employers should encourage healthy practices by offering on-site health programs. These are convenient for aging employees and can help reduce absenteeism. On-site programs that include manual therapy can help prevent chronic pain such as back, shoulder, trunk, or knee pain common in many aging workers.
Education on the normal aging process among both employers and employees is also a good idea so that all will be familiar with tasks that might be more difficult for aging employees.
Adapting Positions To Fit Aging Employees
Changing workplace ergonomics can be helpful for those employees who need extra support. Adapting old positions or creating new ones can also be a solution. Teaching new skills on the job can help aging employees transition out of physically taxing roles.
Addressing Muscular Pain
The workforce’s’ shifting age welcomes unfortunate chronic disorders. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the most frequent health complaint with over 25 million Americans afflicted. MSDs account for 29% of all U.S. workplace injuries and one third of all workers’ compensation claims causing significant disruption to productivity and costing companies billions every year. Pain management and mitigation programs treat the underlying cause of pain and alleviate stress for employees, to reduce healthcare claims and associated costs.
As your workers age, it’s sometimes a good idea to make a plan for alternative work options. Many aging employees who want to continue working, but aren’t ready to retire need more flexibility and personal time. Allowing your aging workers to telecommute or flexible work arrangements such as partial retirement are ways to let your employee contribute to the company while meeting their needs.
Employers should also consider giving aging workers access to services to help with personal and work related issues, such as elder care.
Employers need to be ready to manage a workforce that’s aging rapidly. Companies that make these changes have seen improvements in retention, productivity, organizational culture, and the bottom line. If your company has a high over-50 employment rate, consider implementing these strategies and adopting a total worker health perspective. Watch the NIOSH webinar on Productive Aging and Work here.