Background: Demographic, labor market and economic forces are combining to produce increases in the number and percentage of U.S. workers 55 and older. In some ways these workers will be our most skilled and productive employees but in others the most vulnerable.
Methods: The literature on aging and work was reviewed, including demographic trends, physical and cognitive changes, safety and performance, work ability, and retirement patterns.
Results and conclusions: Older workers have more serious, but less frequent, workplace injuries and illnesses than younger ones. There is evidence that many of these problems can be prevented and their consequences reduced by anticipating the physical and cognitive changes of age. Many employers are aware that such efforts are necessary, but most have not yet addressed them. There is a need for implementation and evaluative research of programs and policies with four dimensions: the work environment, work arrangements and work-life balance, health promotion and disease prevention, and social support. Employers who establish age-friendly workplaces that promote and support the work ability of employees as they age may gain in safety, productivity, competitiveness, and sustainable business practices.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.