Health & Safety Conditions of Older Workers

Workplace wellness and safety programs should focus on older workers, not because of age itself, but because with age comes increased risk of chronic medical conditions.  For workers over age 55, more than 75% have at least one chronic health condition that requires management, with arthritis and hypertension being the most common.  Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal conditions, psychiatric or emotional issues, and cancer are also reported in this age group.

It is the medical conditions that may require individualized attention and may put workers at greater risk of injury as compared to younger workers without the condition, given the same exposure.  For example, health conditions involving the cardiovascular system can make workers more sensitve to working in extreme heat, humidity or cold conditions.  Nonetheless, older workers experience less accidents and nonfatal work-related injuries than younger workers.  However, when injuries do occur, they are more likely to be fatal with higher levels of severity and slower recovery times.

When tailoring workplace programs and conditions to older workers, employers must be careful not to view them as a homogenous group.  Older workers will be diverse in their desire to continue working, ability to work and the chronic disease(s) that they manage.

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