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Older Adults in the Workplace: A Win–Win

 

My dad lived until he was 85 and, although he officially retired at 60, he managed a quarter century more of productive and rewarding work activity.

Much of that has to do with better workplace accommodations for older workers — such as more adaptive, ergonomically friendly furniture, more flexible working hours, and more opportunities for breaks during the workday — that were available to him and others. But it also has to do with more employers adopting workplace health programs that provide more nutritious meals in the cafeteria and more opportunities for physical activity and stress relief, from walking trails to yoga classes. Such opportunities are proving to be a win–win for employers and employees. Employers are able to keep older workers in the labor force and to benefit from their experience, their maturity, and their reliability. The older employees benefit physically and mentally from having a purpose and reason to get up in the morning and applying mental acuity that comes with meaningful work.

According to a recent study published in CDC’s journal Preventing Chronic Disease, older adults who continue working tend to be much healthier than those who have retired or are unemployed. Older workers are a valuable addition to the workplace because they are, on average, just as productive as their younger counterparts; however, they are more careful and emotionally stable and are absent less often.

Other benefits of the “healthy worker effect” associated with worksite health programs are lower health risks and improved health status of older workers, which can lower health care costs for the employer, and the ability to affect workers’ compensation-related expenses through integrating safety and health-promotion programs.

Employers can capitalize on these benefits by offering all their employees including older workers a variety of workplace health promotion program amenities that are science-based and inexpensive to implement, such as walking trails, nutritious foods through onsite vending and/or cafeterias, and stress-reduction options like frequent breaks or yoga classes.

My dad was one of tens of thousands of older adults who have managed to live longer, productive lives. His doctors, my mother, and an increasing number of gerontologists believe that his ability to continue to work was a major factor in his longevity.

By Joe Manguno

Workplace Health Program, Contractor

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

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