Linda presented “Accommodating Age Related Change in the Workplace” at the American Industrial Hygiene Association – Alberta Local Section professional development and AGM symposium in Calgary on March 20th, 2009. I had the opportunity to review the presentation before she left and found the information very relevant to today and quite interesting. What struck me first was the opening statement that she gave in reference to a recent article featured in Elsevier, “When does age-related cognitive decline begin?”, by Timothy A Salthouse. She got the crowd to sit up and take notice when she stated that cognitive decline actually begins in an individual’s late 20s to early 30s.
There are other points that Linda touched on that should make all organizations sit up, take notice. For instance, did you know that the average age of a worker has increased from 35 years in 1980 to 41 in 2008? In 2011, 41% of the working population will be between the ages of 45 to 64 and many will be women? Definitely something to consider when designing or re-designing our workplaces.
Designing for an Aging Workforce
Having older workers is not a bad thing. They are more experienced, possibly more dedicated to their jobs and take more pride in their work. They are needed in times of labor shortages. However, the body is still different than it was when it was younger. We have to consider that this demographic may be more experienced and less likely to injure themselves, but, at the same time, they take more time to recover from an injury, which leads to an increase in lost time. There are also physiological changes that need to be addressed in the design process, such as changes in vision, hearing, and cognitive functions.
Again, there are many pros to having an older workforce – the key is understanding the unique needs of this demographic. And, look at it this way, regardless of the worker’s age, an improved design works for everyone!
If you would like to have Linda or one of our other consultants give a lunch and learn session or half day presentation on what changes need to be made to make your organization “aging worker ready”, give us a call at 780-436-0024 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We always customize our courses to make them relevant to your organization.