Ergonomics and the older worker: an overview

Exp Aging Res. 1991 Autumn;17(3):143-55. doi: 10.1080/03610739108253894.


Several studies have shown that an individual's capacity for physical and mental work tends to decrease with advancing age. Different capacities begin to deteriorate at different ages and at different rates. However, important bench marks appear to occur in the twenties, forties, and sixties. Ergonomics is the science of fitting the task to the worker. It offers the potential of compensating for the decrease in an individual's functional capacities that occur with age through appropriate job design. Without proper ergonomic job design, older workers could well find themselves at a disadvantage due to compromised productivity and health. This overview will cover the history of ergonomics and its importance in workplace design. The effects of age-related declines on various physical and mental capacities will be reviewed and ergonomic recommendations to accommodate these declines will be presented. To remain competitive in an international marketplace the skills and knowledge of the older worker must be used advantageously. The knowledge required to keep the older worker employed safely and productively can only be acquired through a carefully designed longitudinal study patterned after the Baltimore Longitudinal Study.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational
  • Aging* / physiology
  • Aging* / psychology
  • Environment
  • Ergonomics*
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Occupational Medicine
  • Psychomotor Performance