A September 2007 study titled Profit from Experience conducted by the AARP, examined how the world’s leading economies, known as the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) are dealing with the declining number of younger workers and the anticipated shortages of skills in certain areas as older workers near retirement. The consensus is that the solution to these problems lies in retaining older workers beyond the typical age of retirement.
Older workers can be as productive as younger ones, but they do require different considerations. In order to integrate older employees into the workplace successfully, employers must design programs that take advantage of the strengths and capabilities of age while accounting for its limitations.
To create an effective integration program, employers should focus on four key areas:
- Work environment – Workplace ergonomics and human factors engineering can lessen the exposure to hazards so older workers can continue working injury-free. Some ergonomic techniques that should be incorporated include limiting the number of extremely repetitive tasks, reducing stressful postures and rotating jobs. Some of the human factors engineering strategies that will make the job site conducive to older workers include reducing the risk of injuries from trips and falls by placing hand rails along travel routes, reducing clutter, installing slip-resistant floors, repairing uneven floors, and using color contrast between stairway risers and treads.
- Work arrangements – Many employees want alternatives to the abrupt transition from full-time work to full-time retirement. Non-traditional job arrangements like flexible hours, job sharing, telecommuting or phased retirement are examples of some alternatives.
- Disease prevention and wellness promotion – Offering clinical services, like influenza immunization, mammography, and cholesterol and blood pressure screening can prevent or delay disability from chronic conditions. In addition, employers should provide on-site programs that encourage no smoking, healthy eating, and moderate exercise.
- Issues that impact on the ability to remain employed – Many daily living tasks become increasingly difficult with aging and can interfere with an employee’s ability to continue working. Older workers who can no longer drive to work easily can benefit from being allowed to telecommute or becoming part of a carpool. Changing family needs can also prevent a worker from remaining in the workforce. An employee with a spouse that needs home care would be able to stay on the job if their employer offered elder care benefits.