Productive Aging – Workplace Safety and Health

May is Older Americans Month!  Productive aging involves providing a safe and healthy work environment for workers of all ages, and creating conditions that allow workers to function optimally regardless of their age.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, American workers 55 years or older will increase by almost 10 million, or at a rate of 33.5%. In addition, by 2020, most workplaces will have five generations working side by side.

An aging workforce means having to think about how workers and organizations address the needs and challenges of older workers, as well as take advantage of the opportunities that aging and an age-diverse workforce can bring to the work environment.

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Recognizing the importance of aging in the context of work, NIOSH recently established the National Center for Productive Aging & Work (NCPAW), hosted by the Office of Total Worker Health®. The mission of the center is to:

  1. promote age-related research;
  2. develop and promote translational products, best practices, and interventions to facilitate an aging-friendly workplace; and
  3. build and foster relationships with extramural researchers and partners.

What is Productive Aging?

Productive aging is an approach that emphasizes the positive aspects of growing older and how individuals can make important contributions to their own lives, their communities and organizations, and society as a whole. In the context of work, productive aging involves providing a safe and healthy work environment for everyone through comprehensive strategies that allow workers to function optimally at all ages.

Safe-Skilled-Ready Workforce Initiative

Do your employees arrive at work ready to do their jobs and armed with the skills they need to do the job successfully and safely? NIOSH research shows that a “ready worker” is a skilled, safe and healthy worker. The competencies that allow workers to contribute to and benefit from a safe, healthy, and productive workplace are therefore key to any work-readiness effort and to every job.

The mission of the NIOSH Safe-Skilled-Ready Workforce Initiative (SSRWI) is to ensure that all workers have the foundational skills, knowledge, and abilities they need to stay safe and healthy on the job and to contribute to a safe, healthy, and productive workplace. SSRWI recognizes that employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace, but also promotes the idea that everyone should have foundational competencies in risk recognition and control. These help them to protect themselves and to make health preserving decisions on the job now, throughout their working lives, and beyond. In addition to offering the NIOSH Youth@Work—Talking Safety Curriculum, SSRWI works with businesses and labor, as well as the health industry to promote work-readiness, safety, and skills training initiatives.

Promising Practices for Healthy Aging in the Workplace

The Promising Practices for Healthy Aging in the Workplace project seeks to identify and better understand organizational-level practices for creating an age-friendly workplace. This project involves the collection and analysis of data from workers and employers and examines factors that predict the availability and use of these programs, as well as the programs’ impact on chronic health outcomes that affect many older workers, such as arthritis and hypertension. Future plans including sharing findings with researchers and stakeholders, as well as development of practical educational materials about “age-friendly” workplaces for use by both employees and employer associations.

For more information on productive aging and work, including the latest NIOSH research, tools, guidelines, data, and statistics, please visit the National Center for Productive Aging and Work (NCPAW) homepage.

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