Healthy Aging for a Sustainable Workforce
A report identifying important issues that revolve around construction’s aging workforce and its needs on the job and off.
Table of Contents
Background: Definitions & Demographics
Moving Forward: The Concept of Workability
Public Policy Options for an Aging U.S. Workforce
Current Legislative Action/Opportunity
Conference Discussion Papers and Resources
- Overview of NAS report findings
Occupational safety and health issues among older workers
Injuries, illnesses, and fatalities among older workers
Challenges and opportunities of aging construction workers
Special challenges of aging
Ageing workers as a global condition – the European approach
The relationship between aging, job characteristics and health in construction industry: some preliminary data from the Netherlands
Public policy options for an aging workforce
A Conference Report November 2009
Investing in balancing work, health, and family to increase productivity, strengthen working families, and improve security for the future through anticipating the health and safety needs of an increasingly aging workforce.
Conference Video and Visual Presentations
A video of conference highlights is available at www.aoec.org.
Video and visual presentations of the plenary sessions (i.e. Power Points and summary papers) are available for viewing at www.soeh.org.
“The new ‘retirement’ plan: Just keep working” 1
"Worker, 78, Is Freed From Trench After Its Collapse"2
In 1999, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in cooperation with the National Institute on Aging (NIA), requested the National Academy of Science (NAS) form a Committee on the Health and Safety Needs of Older Workers to 1) define the dimensions of the older adult workforce over the next 20-30 years, 2) identify the range of policy and research issues that should be addressed, and 3) identify relationships between retirement patterns and these characteristics of the older adult workforce and of their jobs. The NAS Committee, chaired by David Wegman, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, made their comprehensive report in 2004 and we looked forward to federal initiatives to address their compelling recommendations.
Unfortunately, we have seen little movement toward addressing the Wegman report findings at the national level, and the baby boom cohort (those born between 1946 and 1964) continues on toward retirement age. With the 2008 economic crisis, the decimation of millions of retirement plans and the coinciding loss of home value from the imploding housing market, it became clearer than ever that baby boomers would stay in the workforce longer than earlier predicted. We had anticipated that many workers would stay at work longer because they wished to remain active. We now anticipate many more will remain in the workforce longer because they must in order to survive economically. The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) and the Society of Occupational and Environmental Health (SOEH) had a long standing interest in the topic of healthy aging of workers, and therefore submitted our plans for a conference with the objective to validate and encourage implementation of the 2004 NAS report.
The conference and the following report are the culmination of that effort. Conference participants strongly stressed placing emphasis on the health and well-being of all workers throughout their working lifetime, including addressing the urgent need to give particular attention to older workers.
The executive summary that follows here and the online video clips (www.aoecdata.org/AoecVideos.aspx) capture the main points of the National conference. This entire report, power point presentations, and video clips will be posted on the web with links organized according to the conference program (see www.soeh.org).
We thank NIOSH and CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) for financial support and the U.S. Veteran’s Administration (VA) for its in-kind contribution of videotaping the plenary proceedings.
We also wish to express our appreciation to our other co-sponsors, AARP, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the American Public Health Association (APHA), and the Work and Health Research Center (WHRC) at the University of Maryland School of Nursing for their contributions. We thank Earl Dotter for his wonderful photographs of older workers used to illustrate the true reason for the conference. We give many thanks to many of the individuals who made this conference a success. In particular, thanks to Paula Wilborne-Davis, MPH, CHES of AOEC, to Sarah Schiffert of SOEH, to the staff of the National Labor College and to Jim Kerkhoff, Executive Producer, his video editors and camera crew of the VA. We also wish to thank Pete Stafford and the staff at CPWR – Center for Construction Research and Training for their dedication and assistance with the conference.
Finally, we appreciate the commitment of the conference planning committee. We are particularly grateful to Deborah Weinstock, MDB, Inc., who kept us all on track as chair of the planning committee and to Greg Wagner of NIOSH both for acting as conference chair and for his thoughtful suggestions in writing the executive summary. Other members of the planning committee included Jim Grosch of NIOSH, Sara Rix, AARP, Michael Hodgson of the VA, Sue Dong and Jim Platner of CPWR, Kate McPhaul and Jane Lipscomb of the University of Maryland School of Nursing, Mick Smyer, Bucknell University, and Michael Silverstein of the University of Washington. Finally, we are deeply indebted to David Wegman of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell for his leadership and commitment to the health and safety needs of older workers.
Executive Director, AOEC
The Healthy Aging for Workers conference held February 17-18, 2009 at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland resulted in the following findings:
- All workers are aging, but those that are older continue to grow as a proportion of the working population.
- As the available-worker population changes, many employers have jobs for which they want to attract and retain more experienced workers.
- U.S. workers are living longer than ever before and many are staying in the workforce past age 55. The current economic crisis puts great pressure on workers’ families and their retirement plans, often forcing older workers to postpone retirement and stay longer in the workforce.
- The consequences of injury are, on average, more severe for older workers. Older workers more frequently sustain severe injuries than younger workers and require more days away from work to recover. Death resulting from work-related injuries occurs at higher rates among older workers than younger workers.
- Current knowledge about keeping older workers safe and healthy at work is insufficient. Yet enough is known to mount campaigns to improve protections to support the health and well-being of the current and growing numbers of aging workers.
- The February 17-18, 2009 Conference on “Healthy Aging for Workers” validated the recommendations of the earlier 2004 National Academies of Science panel report on “Health and Safety Needs of Older Workers” and made the following recommendations:
- More research is needed to understand how to prevent work-related injury, illness, and fatality among aging workers.
- Data systems necessary to track the health and safety of aging workers and the programs that address them must be improved.
- Knowledge gaps need to be filled to better understand the physiochemical, biological, biomechanical, and psychosocial factors that affect aging workers;
- Evaluation research is needed to determine the aspects of policies, programs, and intervention techniques and strategies that are effective and those which are not effective in addressing the health and safety of aging workers.
- Target policy to help maintain work ability as workers age including attention to:
- Quality and safety of the work environment;
- Public and private insurance designed to encourage prevention and wellness;
- Flexible work arrangements to achieve work-life balance;
- Social context of work (commuting, family, appropriate technology, etc.).
- Better enforcement of existing law and new legislation to:
- Provide tax credits for employers maintaining a tax-qualified pension or retirement plan and health insurance;
- Promote labor force participation of older Americans;
- Encourage use of appropriate formal, flexible work programs;
- Update the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to increase availability of COBRA* and the Workforce Investment Act to improve training opportunities for older workers.
Focusing on the health and well-being of all workers throughout their working lifetime will address the needs of older workers; however, due to the rapidly increasing numbers of older workers in the workforce there is an urgent need to give particular attention to understanding and addressing the needs of older workers now.
* COBRA means Title X of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget
Reconciliation Act of 1985, as amended. COBRA gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. Qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan. See http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/health-plans/cobra.htm
Older workers are growing in numbers and as a proportion of the working population, creating significant economic, health, and social challenges in the U.S. and internationally.
Worldwide, as the baby boom generation grows old enough, they begin to leave the workplace either by necessity—they are no longer able to work at their usual job—or by choice. Because of concerns about the loss of experienced and skilled workers with too few available replacements, and because of the recent economic downturn that has decimated many retirement funds, many older-workers opt not to leave their jobs.
Here, and in other industrial nations, employers increasingly try to keep more experienced workers in the workplace longer. Meanwhile workers worldwide are facing employment uncertainty and stress due to rising unemployment during the current (2008-2009) economic crises.
Assuring conditions at work that allow aging workers to continue to engage productively is a sound economic and social policy. First, continued employment reduces the economic and social dependence of aging citizens. Older workers contribute to economic growth and increase governmental revenues through the taxes they will pay, helping to defray some of the anticipated costs associated with increased claims on Social Security and Medicare. Promising studies show that the longer workers remain mentally and physically engaged the better their well-being and the longer they are likely to live (GAO-07-433T). The primary prevention of work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities extends to all workers; but for older workers extend health and well-being through working years and beyond is of additional import.
A 2004 National Academy of Science report entitled “Health and Safety Needs of Older Workers” made comprehensive recommendations for research needed for protecting the health and safety of older workers (NRC, 2004). Little has yet been done to implement these recommendations. This 2009 conference re-explored the issues raised in the NAS report and confirmed the 2004 recommendations.
It is within this context that experts from academia, labor, industry, and government gathered to consider the health and safety needs of workers as they age.
Background: Definitions & Demographics
There is no standard definition of ‘older’ or aging worker. The U.S. Department of Labor uses >40 years in some statistics, while some Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stratifications use >45 years for injury and illness reporting. The AARP defines this as 50 years or older; the U.S. Office of Aging describes older ‘citizens’ as older than 55 years; and the United Nations recognized this group as 60 years or older. Baby boomers are generally described as those born between 1946 and 1964.
The proportion of the U.S. population of people age 65 and older is projected to increase from 12.4 percent in 2000 to 19.6 percent in 2030 and continue to grow through 2050. In part this is due to increases in life expectancy. The average lifespan for men who reach age 65 is projected to increase from just over 13 years in 1970 to 20 years in 2020. While life expectancy has increased, workforce participation rates of older workers has not increased proportionally, thus workers are spending more years in retirement. Meanwhile, relatively low fertility rates contribute to the growing proportion of the elderly and the growth of the workforce. Also, contributing to the slowing of the workplace growth is the leveling off of women’s labor force participation rate. While women-related rates increased between 1950 at 30 percent and 2000 at 47 percent, their share of the labor force is projected to remain at about 48 percent. By 2025 labor force growth is expected to be less than 20 percent of what it is today.
The aging of the population may strongly affect the economy. A slowing workforce growth means fewer workers will be available to produce goods and services, slowing the potential for economic growth. Lacking advances in productivity or higher rates of immigration, low workforce growth means Medicare and Social Security resources will be strained while there will be fewer workers paying into the benefits system.
As workers live longer and spend more years in retirement, greater stress will be placed on their retirement income. More years of retirement must be financed to prevent them from running out of retirement income. About half of U.S. workers lack pension plans through their employers and those that do are increasingly covered by defined contribution plans. As we have seen in the current economic crisis, invested retirement funds are inadequate, which means many workers will have to work longer (GAO-07-433T).
Unemployment disproportionately affects workers 55 and older. When the recession began in December 2007, older workers accounted for 11.1 percent of the total unemployed but in November 2008 that share had leapt to 13 percent with more than 1.3 million older workers looking for work but unable to find a job (EPI Issue Brief #251, 2009).
Some older workers will work past retirement age because they want to. Some will work longer because their retirement resources are inadequate and they will have to. All who work longer will continue to be at risk of harm from uncontrolled workplace conditions. While older workers experience similar events leading to injury, they sustain more severe injuries than younger workers and require more days away from work to recover. Further, older workers die more frequently from workplace injuries (BLS, 2005).
Examples of the health and safety needs of older workers are taken from two significant work sectors: construction and health care. Both sectors are pillars of the U.S. economy and significant to the future. In the near term construction workers will rebuild national infrastructure in the U.S. including the housing, transportation, public, and commercial structures needed to sustain our changing society. Health care is among the fastest growing areas of employment partly because of improved medical technology and facilities and in anticipation of the health needs of the aging baby-boom generation. Both sectors include older workers who may work longer and a need for younger workers to take care of the special needs of an aging population that is increasing in size and in proportion of younger members of the population.
Findings for Construction Workers
Construction represents a special case in that employment is often mobile and varied. Construction projects are time-limited and phased so workers are employed for a period then must look for other work. Construction workers often work out of hiring halls locally where job availability and job sites may frequently change. They sometimes must travel to other regions in the country as economic conditions change causing demand for local jobs to be scarce but plentiful in distant locations. Mobility demanded by construction work among a variety of constantly changing job sites and employers presents difficulties in communicating with and tracking health and benefits for construction workers.
Construction has grown considerably in the past decade. U.S. construction employment has increased to 11.8 million in 2007 from 7.0 million in 1992 (Dong, 2009). Although national data is not yet available for the most recent two years, construction employment losses in the current recession are expected to exceed a million workers. Most of these are losses from the nonunion sector.
Meanwhile, construction workers are getting older and staying in their jobs longer. The average age of construction workers was 39.5 in 2007, which is 3.5 years older than in 1985. Median age in construction was 39.0 in 2007, up from 34.0 in 1985. The average age of the U.S. workforce was 40.9 in 2007, compared with 37.3 in 2007(Dong, 2009). The younger age distribution among construction workers may be explained by the extremely hard physical demands of construction jobs that are often unsustainable with age. Recent Current Population Survey (CPS) data for 2008 indicate that the number of Hispanic workers is declining and the average age is rising (i.e., from 39.5 in 2007 to 40.2 in 2008) (Dong, 2009).
Construction workers are putting off retiring. Average retirement age in construction has increased to 61.4 in 2006 from 59.3 in 1994 (Health and Retirement Survey, 1994-2006) (Dong, 2009).
Anticipated increased economic growth in the next decade will increase demand for more skilled construction workers. For instance, in the period of 2006-2016 construction employers will need 282,263 laborers, 255,558 carpenters, 140,316 electricians, 124,558 plumbers, and 107,902 operating engineers as new workforce entrants. On average, 390,000 new construction workers will be needed annually in the next decade, but currently there are fewer than 100,000 registered apprentices enrolling in construction training programs annually. Scarcity of qualified skilled construction workers plus uncertain retirement support will keep many older construction workers working longer (BLS Current Population Survey, 2006) (Dong, 2009).
Older construction workers are increasingly at risk. The rate of fatal injuries in construction is higher among workers +55 years of age. For instance, there were 5.2 fatalities per 100,000 full time workers for falls among workers 55 and older compared to 3.1 fatalities per 100,000 full time workers in the age group 15-34 years and 3.9 fatalities per full time 100,000 workers in the age group 35-54 years (BLS Current Population Survey and BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries) (Dong, 2009).
Older construction workers often lack health insurance. Approximately 613,000 construction workers who are 50 years or older, lack health insurance (Current population survey, March supplement, 2007) (Dong, 2009).
Findings for Health Care Workers
Health care workers are an aging workforce. The health care professions not only require new workers to replace those leaving this workforce but must include additional workers to fill the demand for health services resulting from the increasingly aging population.
Health care cost-containment has meant longer work hours and increased stress among health care workers. These conditions have led to a shortage of nursing staff (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, 2002).
Thirty-nine percent of Registered Nurses (RN) are 45 years or older compared to the average of thirty-four percent for all jobs (Dohm, 2002). The average age of an RN is 47 years.
The Health Care and Social Assistance (HSCA) Sector has four subsectors including:
- Ambulatory care services - 6.1 M
- Hospitals - 5.7 M
- Nursing and residential care services - 2.5 M
- Social assistance - 3.1 M
The social assistance subsector includes child day care services (1.56M), individual and family services (1.28M), vocational rehabilitation services (0.18M); food and housing and emergency services (0.12M) for a total of 3.14M workers.
The HSCA sector includes a total of 17.4 M which is 12 percent of all workers in the U.S. Still there is a global shortage of health care workers.
More than sixteen percent of all reported nonfatal workplace injuries and nearly twenty-one percent of all nonfatal illnesses are reported in the HCSA sector (BLS, 2005 a, b and c).
Incidence rates of nonfatal occupational injuries are higher than private industry (e.g., 4.2 vs. 5.4 per 100,000 full time workers in 2006) (NORA 2009).
Incidence rates of nonfatal occupational illnesses are also higher than private industry (e.g., 24.6 vs. 40.0 per 100,000 full time workers in 2006) (NORA 2009).
Researchers’ definitions of older worker varies for the HCSA Sector, ranging from >45 to >55 years but may depend more on the type of work. The impact of normal aging on health care workers includes:The impact of normal aging on health care workers includes:
- Physical and cognitive factors (e.g., lifting patients, calculating medication doses);
- Injuries (e.g. back injuries, slips);
- Balance (e.g., standing, walking with patients);
- Vision (e.g., computer terminals, small print, handwriting);
- Hearing (e.g., loud environments, overhead pages);
- Strength and endurance (e.g. lifting; long hours);
- Work and life balance (e.g. grandchildren, spouse work or disability, care for elderly parents).
A study of health care worker shift work and age found occupational injury rates were higher on night shifts and that injury rates increase with successive night shifts. Although these injuries were fewer, they were also more serious among older workers. These findings are suggestive that older workers are at higher risk of injury on night shifts (Folkard, 2008).
A 2006 survey conducted on 308 RNs >50 years in a 2 state sample in which 47 percent worked on average 9.4 hours per day and 36.4 hours per week, with an average of 28 years in nursing. Thirty-six percent of these reported work-related health problems and 23 percent reported work-related injuries over the past 5 years. Older RNs, however, reported better physical and mental health than the national norm (Levtak, 2006).
In a study of age and work schedule in 2,273 RNs, the average age was 45 years with 36.6 percent older than 50 years. Of the >50 year and older group, 47.4 percent reported working > 8 hours per day and 34.9 percent worked > 40 hours per week. Nearly 70 percent worked 4-5 days per week and 51.2 percent worked one or more weekend day per month. Fourteen percent reported working 13 hours or more per day at least once a week or more. This is considered the norm. This leads to concern about personal and patient safety (Trinkoff, 2006).
Impressions reported include:
- HSCA workers will need to work until an older age to meet workforce shortages.
- Older workers are working similarly long hours as younger workers.
- Older RNs may be avoiding some physical demands.
- Older workers contribute skills and experience to care giving.
- Positive and flexible work organization may assist in retaining older workers in the HCSA sector.
Moving Forward: The Concept of Workability
One way to understand how to sustain a healthy workforce among aging workers is through the concept of “workability.” Workability includes diverse factors affecting work ability and employability of aging workers. It also includes assessment of the ability to work in different occupations, and the matching of physical and cognitive capabilities with job demands The worker’s capabilities are evaluated in the context of the nature of work itself including work demands, content, and organization. This concept arose from research in Nordic countries and presents a promising line of research and practice.
Public Policy Options for an Aging U.S. Workforce
The aging of the baby boom generation with variably improved health status and increasing longevity that is afforded by medical technology advances and better living conditions present societal challenges. These must be addressed through public policy development. Dated current public policy is largely framed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967, and is based on societal expectations following World War II. Yet these may be inadequate to meet societal expectations, geo-political demands, and economic conditions of the 21st Century.
Business, political, and other opinion leaders have recognized for some time that workers approaching retirement age in this generation will play a greater role in policy debates in the coming years than previously. Yet little has been done to prepare for anticipated labor and skills shortages, and for the imbalance between the number of active workers contributing to social security and private pension systems. This is also complicated by the rate of the increasing number of older workers retirement in the future. These issues must be addressed to sustain our societal goals of both healthy workplaces and healthy aging.
Four possible approaches may be considered to sustain our near term economic and societal goals:
- increase immigration of young workers, both skilled and unskilled,
- outsource work to international labor markets,
- increase reliance on automation and advanced technology, and/or
- delay retirement and retention of older workers.
Of these options, the first three address some business concerns but fail to meet the needs of presently employed aging workers who confront age-related physical and cognitive changes. These workers must choose between continuing to work if they can and retiring from work in an era of escalating health care cost and diminished pension security.
The fourth approach of delaying retirement is moderated by business decisions concerning competitiveness, skill retention, and pension and health care cost. Factors that may affect workers’ delaying retirement include: the recent trend of movement to defined contribution plans from defined benefit plans and the subsequent down turn of the economy; a desire to remain active; and elimination of retirement health benefits. Factors that may make it difficult to work longer include: barriers in pension plan; short-coming in training programs; and family care-giving commitments.
In developing public employment/retirement policy we need to consider possible adverse consequences, i.e., how policies are framed for keeping older workers employed may affect worker benefits, and equity, i.e., employer discrimination against workers who may have strong needs to work longer. It should be noted that to date ADEA has been ineffective in preventing discriminatory practice arising from ERISA. We also need to consider how to ensure workers who wish to, or must, work past traditional retirement age are able to.
Policy should also consider four dimensions of work life that can help maintain work ability as workers age and can prolong the period during which they can continue to work safely and productively. These include:
- Work environment including: cognitive function, work organization, ergonomic and other human factor programs;
- Disease prevention and health promotion, including: attention to the five chronic diseases more common with aging; workplace wellness programs; health insurance that encourages prevention; change Medicare rules to not discourage work after 65;
- Flexible work arrangements to achieve work-life balance, including the ability to receive pension payment before 62 while still working part-time; the ability to reduce working hours in late career without a reduction in eventual pension benefits; and the continued eligibility for health care and other benefits if working hours are reduced in late career;
- Social context of work including: meeting transportation needs; addressing evolving family needs; rebuilding infrastructure to accommodate the aging working population; allowing older workers with very old parents to continue working.
Current Legislative Activity/Opportunity
Current legislative activity provides the potential to apply the above strategies and considerations. Below are updates of the legislation discussed at the conference.
The Older Worker Opportunity Act of 2009 (S.502) was introduced on February 27, 2009 in the 111th Congress. This bill would promote labor force participation of older Americans, with the goals of increasing retirement security, reducing the projected shortage of experienced workers, maintaining future economic growth, and improving the Nation’s fiscal outlook (www.GovTrack.us). It allows a tax credit for employing older workers in flexible work programs:
- Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow employers who maintain a tax-qualified pension or retirement plan and who provide health insurance coverage a business-related tax credit for 25 percent of the first $6,000 of the wages of employees who have attained the age of 62 and who are participating in a formal flexible work program.
- Defines “formal flexible work program” as a work program (1) that consists of core and flex time; (2) whose core time does not exceed 20 hour per week, three days per week, or 1,000 hours per year, (3) that allows participation for at least one year; and (4) that does not permit a change or reduction in the health care or pension benefits of the participating employee.
The Health Care and Training for Older Workers Act (S281) was introduced on January 16, 2009 in the 111th Congress. It would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to extend COBRA continuation coverage for certain older workers. It also amends the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 to revise (1) statewide employment and training activities, adding developing strategies for serving hard-to-serve populations and coordinating programs among one-stop partners; (2) local employment and training activities, with respect to intensive services and training services, and adding customer support for members of hard-to-serve populations, including individuals with disabilities; and (3) performance measures, data and reporting www.GovTrack.us
In addition, existing laws may need more effective enforcement. For instance, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which covers workers aged 40 and older, is administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). While ADEA protects against discrimination in both hiring and work practices, enforcement has primarily concentrated on complaints about hiring practices (i.e., unfair termination from work). Now, as older workers seek to stay longer in their jobs, complaints are expected to increase about unfair work practices (e.g., flexible work arrangements, retirement options, physical and cognitive stresses, chronic illness, etc.). Discrimination in hiring and work practices may be difficult to prove without adequate monitoring systems in place at the local, state, and national level because of the difficulties in identifying an affected class of workers.
- All workers are aging, but those that are older continue to grow as a proportion of the population.
- As the available worker population changes, many employers have jobs for which they want to attract and retain more experienced workers.
- U.S. workers are living longer than ever before and many are staying in the workforce past age 55. The current economic crisis puts great pressure on workers’ families and their retirement plans by forcing older workers to postpone retirement and stay longer in the workforce.
- Both older and younger workers have similar frequency of work-related injury and illness, but the consequences of injury are, on average, more severe for older workers. Older workers more frequently sustain severe injuries than younger workers and require more days away from work to recover. Older workers die as a result of work-related injury at higher rates than younger workers.
- Current knowledge about keeping older workers safe and healthy at work is insufficient. Yet enough is known to mount campaigns to protect the health and well-being of the current and growing numbers of aging workers.
- Reports presented at the February 17-18, 2009 Conference on “Healthy Aging for Workers” validated the recommendations of the earlier 2004 National Academies of Science panel report on “Health and Safety Needs of Older Workers” and made the following recommendations:
- More research is needed to understand how to prevent work-related injury, illness and fatality among aging workers.
- Data systems necessary to track the health and safety of aging workers and the programs that address them must be improved.
- Knowledge gaps need to be filled to better understand the physiochemical, biological, biomechanical, and psycho social factors that affect aging workers.
- Evaluation research is needed to determine the aspects of polices, programs, and intervention techniques and strategies that are effective and those which are not effective in addressing the health and safety of aging workers.
Policy for appropriate and fair treatment of older workers requires development in three areas:
- Encouraging longer careers through rewarding delayed retirement instead of penalizing early or traditional retirement;
- Anticipating and preventing age discrimination in the workplace;
- Ensuring that those workers who choose to work longer are able to do so in work environments that enhance their work ability, safety, and health.
Focusing on the health and well-being of all workers throughout their working lifetime will ultimately address the needs of older workers; however there is an urgent need to give particular attention to understanding and addressing the needs of older workers now.
The conference agrees with findings and recommendations of the 2004 NAS report on “Health and Safety Needs of Older Workers.” More research should be supported to:
- Conduct informative research. This requires improved data base and data systems necessary to track the health and safety needs of older workers and the programs that address them.
- Provide better understanding of the factors that relate to the health and safety needs of older workers. This includes research on the physiological, pathological, and functional effects of common and potentially harmful worksite exposures – physiochemical, biological, biomechanical, and psychosocial – on older workers.
- Identify and clarify the aspects of policy, program, and intervention techniques and strategies that are effective and ineffective in addressing the health and safety needs of older workers.
1 http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/32086450 updated 8:04 a.m. ET, Wed., July 29, 2009'
2 Washington Post, 2008 March 23 Headline, p. C5