The Care and Handling of Older Workers

For the first time ever, the workplace will soon have five generations working side-by-side. While many Baby Boomers are retiring, a number of them are opting to keep working for financial reasons or because they want to stay active. On the heels of the Boomers, Gen X will soon join the ranks of older workers. As the workforce matures, employers most likely will face the challenge of accommodating those older employees.

The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODE) prepared a list of resources designed to give employers guidance in implementing sound workplace practices for older workers. The ODE recognizes that “experienced mature workers develop disabilities as they age, or existing disabilities may become more significant.”

Vision impairment and physical demands on older workers, particularly in the manufacturing sector, deserve special attention from employers to reduce the risk of injury on the job, not to mention avoiding hefty payments for worker’s compensation. Aside from these occupational and safety regulatory issues, firms serious about accommodating older employees are exploring the use of ergonomics to redesign a safe and productive environment in the workplace.

Many major business and HR publications have devoted a tremendous amount of “ink” to advice and guidance on managing a multigenerational workforce. Why all the fuss about taking care of older workers? According to the Urban Institute , employees 55 and over will account for one quarter of that workforce by 2019. They also add a significant amount of value to the blended generational workplace.

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