How Wellbeing Programmes can help with the Ageing Worker

How Wellbeing Programmes can help with the Ageing Worker

Image of a face, half is old and half is new, used to depict aging
Ageing workers in the Workplace

The number of older people staying in work is rising, with more than one in four over-65s now earning a wage, says a report from Aviva.

Aviva’s report on retirement reveals that in December 2012, 23 per cent of people aged between 65 and 74 were in employment, up from 18 per cent when the report first published four years ago. The trend looks set to continue as baby boomers head towards retirement, with 55 per cent of 55 to 64-year-olds drawing a salary, compared with 41 per cent in February 2010.

The recent scrapping of the default retirement age is thought to be helping the inclusion in the workplace of ageing workers, while improved health in later life could also be responsible, says Aviva.

With increases in the state pension age on the horizon combined with the rising cost of living, there are concerns that older people are staying in employment for longer out of necessity and not choice.

“There are, of course, many more people now aged over 65 but also those coming up to retirement may be finding their private or state pensions are not as good as they had hoped – meaning they have to stay at work if they want a reasonable income,” commented Dr Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga.

Author’s Opinion

Occupational health and safety is about protecting the health and modifying the work to suit the person.

With more ageing workers staying in work, focus on what they can do from a practical assessment and not applying arbitrary standards based on fear, myths and health misinformation.

Already we are beginning to see more and more focus on ageing workers problems in the workplace, problems such as musculoskeletal issues and increased long-term absence.

The HSE has produced a research document on this, called Age and Employment research which dispels many of the myths about older workers and is a must for occupational health professionals and HR for reference purposes, especially when considering the implications of ageism under the relatively new Equality Act.

Some interesting facts from the report – such as men at 65 could now expect to live a further 12.8 years in good or fairly good health and women could live for a further 14.5 years?

Or that diabetes has shown an increase in prevalence, almost doubling in adults between 1994-2006 and obesity levels have also increased markedly since 1994?

Age is a complex issue in different types of workplaces too.  Consider the different issues of having an ageing worker in either a blue collar or white collar job – the health problems and solutions can be quite different, especially with the increasing mental health issues which are already having a dramatic influence on absence, will dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease come into the equation more now?

Ageing Workers tops the 1 million mark

An article published in Health Insurance Group Risk (June 2013) shows that ageing workers are carrying on work with the number of people aged 65 and over in employment reaching one million for the first time, Office for National Statistics (ONS) data just published.

The data, which relates to the period between February and April for 2013, shows the employment rate for those aged 65 and over was 9.5%.

The ONS said both the employment rate, and a number of people in work for this age group is the highest since comparable records began in 1992. It puts the rise down to both more people staying on in work, and there were more people of this age group in the population as life expectancy rises.

ONS tells us that over the last 50 years (1960-2010) the average life span has increased by around 10 years for a man and 8 years for a woman. Although older, experienced workers can be beneficial to businesses and workers, it will mean employers needing to take a more proactive approach to managing employee health. Steve Lowe, a retirement income specialist, added that it is “vital” to encourage those approaching retirement age to “properly plan for stopping work so they can make the most of their precious pension savings and other assets”.

It comes after research revealed that more than half of Britain’s ageing workers are worried they won’t be up to the job physically or mentally if they have to work into old age.

Occupational health is well placed to deal with health issues in all sorts of work, to help with retirement programmes, assessment of fitness to work and to run on site health promotion and workplace well-being programmes to change poor health behaviours and encouraging healthy lifestyles early on.

June 2013 – updated July 2014

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