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Getting Old At Work Isn’t for Sissies

I remember when I was in my early 20s and the older workers would say, “Bend your knees or you’re going to regret it when you’re my age.”  They were right.  By the time I was there age (35) my back was sore every time I got out of bed.  Now in the morning at 54 years old my back is sore, shoulders hurt, and some rainy days my whole body aches until I get up and move around.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

By 2015, one in every five American workers will be over 65 and in 2020, one in four American workers will be over 55, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although there is no consensus on the age at which workers are considered “older workers,” the aging workforce phenomenon is real – and global.

These demographic shifts have made the issue of healthier workers, especially those of advanced age, much more pressing. Vital to any workplace is the safety, health and well-being of the workforce, especially as workers age.

The reality is our workforces have, are, and will continue to age.  Getting older is tough on the body and let’s face it, few people can do everything they did at 25, now at age 35, 45, 55, 65, etc.  Not only do our bodies change with age but our minds do as well.  It is cliché to think that technology is harder to keep up with the older you get, but that has been the case since the beginning of time.  Early hunters who hurled a spear later had to deal with learn the new technology of shooting a bow and arrow.  So we have to be willing to learn new technology, while learning our physical limits.

Here are a few myths about older workers:

Myth Older workers are more likely to have work-related injuries.

Reality Not true. In fact, older workers suffer fewer job-related injuries.


Myth Older people are all alike.

Reality Differences within age groups are often greater than those between age groups.


Myth Older adults are unable or unwilling to learn new things or skills.

Reality Age does not determine curiosity or the willingness to learn.

  • Older workers may sometimes take slightly longer to learn certain tasks and may respond better to training methods more suited to their needs.


Myth Older adults avoid new approaches or new technologies.

Reality Many people, regardless of age, enjoy new technology.

  • Older workers are likely to respond well to innovation if it:
  • relates to what they already know
  • allows for self-paced learning
  • provides opportunities for practice and support.


Myth Older workers have failing memories.

Reality Long-term memory continues to increase with age.


Myth It is not worthwhile investing in training older workers because they are likely to leave or are “just coasting to retirement.”

Reality Older workers tend to be loyal and less likely to change jobs frequently. This is particularly the case if older workers know their efforts are appreciated and they are not faced with a mandatory retirement age.  U.S. Bureau of Labor studies show that workers aged 45 to 54 stayed in their current position twice as long as workers aged 25 to 34.

Education is the best provision for old age.  – Aristotle

Learning to work without hurting yourself in the current economy is not easy.  Many older workers still perform jobs that are physical.  Others move into jobs that require less physical and more mental challenges.  In both cases we must learn to adapt so that we don’t hurt ourselves.  So what can a person do?

Here are just a few simple ideas no matter what age you are:

  • Recognize the need for help in lifting and carrying items
  • If you work at a desk, make sure it is ergonomically designed to keep stress off your neck, shoulders, and hips.
  • Slowly stretch your body each morning or after sitting for long periods like a cat or dog does.
  • Get physical rest by going to bed earlier and taking some time to allow your body to regenerate.
  • Take time to rest your mind.  Shut off the phone, iPad, computer, etc.
  • Keep learning about your chosen work and you may be able to use your mind rather than your physical ability in the future and continue to work as long as you want.

I could make a longer list but I think you get the idea.  Being safe at work begins with you taking action to take care of yourself.  As I work with companies and individuals around the country it becomes obvious that few people take responsibility for their personal safety and health.  More people are worried about changing or improving someone else than themselves.  Take action today to improve your ability to perform your job as you grow older with all the generations at your company.

In my new book: Safety Attitudes: Improving Your Workplace’s Safety Culture Begins with You, I challenge the reader to consider four personal goals that will transform their lives and their company’s safety culture.  Purchase today by CLICKING HERE

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