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Monday, January 25 | Issues in Dealing with the Aging Workforce
IS THERE A NEED TO BEND OVER BACKWARDS TO BE FLEXIBLE WITH AGING WORKERS?
In this edition of the newsletter, we continue with the needs of the aging
workforce and employment options regarding that demographic. In the fiscal
year 2007, federal agencies hired almost 14,000 new workers who were 55
years of age or older and brought back about 5,400 federal retirees to
address workforce needs. Being a government employee seems to be very
popular right now.
The Government Accounting Office (GAO) examined three agencies that rely on
older workers for staffing. They found that their ongoing goals were to:
1. Use them as contractors to bring their knowledge and skills back to fill
short-term job assignments and to help train and develop the agency's
growing number of newly hired staff.
2. Develop recruitment efforts targeted at a broad pool of candidates,
including older workers.
3. Pass down knowledge and skills to junior staff. In addition, GAO noted
that other agencies have developed practices that are useful in tapping
older workers to meet short-term needs, such as the Department of State,
which has developed databases to match interested retirees with
short-term assignments requiring particular skills.
During the 1990's there was a trend for workers to look at retiring at 55-57
years of age. In the current economy and post 9/11, that has changed. In
2002, the percentage of workers who planned to put off retirement until
after age 62 had grown to 47%. In 2004, the number had ballooned to 57%.
However, the risk of injury is known to be greater for older workers. Older
workers' claims are generally open longer and have a higher severity, but
most of the literature shows them with a lower claim frequency than younger
workers. The injury frequency difference pretty much makes up for the slower
healing and higher salaries that cause the higher per-claim costs.
Sources:_ U.S. Government Accountability Office Report Summary of
GAO-09-206 (February 24, 2009)
Worker's Comp Insider - Lynch Ryan 6-21-05
Topics from the Journals and Websites
One of the issues facing employers when dealing with the wide range of ages
of their workers is the psycho-social needs found within those groups.
Further, a question can be raised as to: "Is there a bias in the way the
needs of these groups are handled?" If so, "what are the different
perspectives found between the groups as they pertain to the work
environment and management?"
Some of the answers are found in a report from Boston College titled "Age &
Generations: Understanding Experiences at the Workplace." 15 May 2009 by
Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Ph.D., Christina Matz-Costa, and Elyssa Besen.
The following observations were noted in different age groups of workers.
1. Millennials/Generation Y'ers (ages 26 or younger) had significantly
lower work overload scores (were less overloaded and stressed by their
work) than Generation X'ers (ages 27 to 42) and Baby Boomers (ages 43 to
2. Millennials/Generation Y'ers and the Younger Generation X'ers were less
likely to say that their work gave them a sense of fulfillment, meaning
and purpose than the Baby Boomers and the Traditionalists/Silent
Generation (ages 62 or older).
3. Older Baby Boomers (ages 53 to 61) perceived lower supervisor support
compared to Generation X'ers and the Younger Baby Boomers (ages 43 to
4. Millennials/Generation Y'ers reported that they had greater
opportunities for learning and development compared to Older Generation
X'ers (ages 36 to 42).
5. The mid-career group felt that they had greater access to the flexible
work options needed to fulfill their work and personal needs compared to
the early- and late-career groups.
6. Employees providing eldercare reported less access to the flexible work
options that they needed to fulfill their work and personal needs
compared to those employees providing childcare or those with no
dependent care at all.
7. Employees with 0-3 years of tenure had more access to flexible work
options than did those with 3.01-10.0 years of tenure; however, those
with 3.01 to 10 years used a greater percentage of the options available
to them than did those with 0-3 years of tenure.
The question remains, is there a bias in the way different age groups
present themselves and are treated on the job? The answer is apparently yes,
but more importantly is it a problem? If so what can be done about it, or
should something should be done? What do you think?
Selected Comments sent to firstname.lastname@example.org will be
posted in future newsletters.
THE AGING HEART IN ERGONOMICS
The aging process affects the heart in many ways. Unlike a skeletal muscle,
the heart muscle contracts automatically for a lifetime. However with aging
there are some physiological changes that do occur.
* The aging heart slows down because the time between heartbeats
increases. "Cardiac Output" (amount squeezed out with each beat) is
decreased because the heart is unable to pump out more blood during
exercise when we become old. So recovery time is increased.
* Cardiac Output decreases slightly in older women. However, it does not
change in healthy older men who have no heart disease. Reasons for this
are not known.
* As we age, the muscles around our blood vessels begin to fail so as we
stand our blood tends to pool in our legs more than when we were
younger. The problem is known as postural hypotension and explains why
elderly people are more likely to feel dizzy or to fall when they stand
up quickly from a resting position.
* Pooling in our legs can cause: edema, varicose veins, cramping, numbness
or tingling in the legs or feet.
In the work environment, be aware that long periods of standing on hard
surfaces, and lifting or straining while bent over increases stress on the
vascular system that will increase fatigue of the leg and body. It will
require frequent breaks in tasks to allow for recovery.
Arch supports and well-fitted shoes that are still structurally sound should
be promoted by departments that have workers on their feet for most of the
day. Floor mats for those in static standing positions or sit-stand options
will also promote good vascular health of the worker.
In addition office chairs that support the thighs and feet properly should
decrease stress but should NOT cut off circulation to the lower legs. In
some cases of visible swelling of the feet and legs, the ergonomist should
suggest that workers consult their physicians for medical diagnosis and
treatment that may include the use of support stockings for circulation
Did you know...?
The sound of a snore (up to 69 decibels) can be almost as loud as the noise
of a pneumatic drill. (If you don't believe me, ask my wife.)
Ergo Websites, Ergo Products, gadgets and doodads
A new product was recently presented at the Ergo Conference in Las Vegas
that purports to be the answer for those who do not have time to exercise
during the day. The Walkstation from Steelcase product is one that many
ergonomists and clients alike have talked about in offhanded ways but not
thinking about it again. However, it has now come to fruition.
The unit costs approximately $4,990.00. The decision is yours, ERGO minds
want to know: Is this a product you would "Place" or "MIS-place" on your
office equipment list? _In this issue_
• Topics from the Journals and Websites
• Ergo Science
• Did you know...
• Ergo Websites, Ergo Products, gadgets and doodads
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