psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, while suffering numerous hardships in his life as a prisoner of war in a Nazi work camp that included being isolated from the rest of the world including his family along with the prospect of facing at the hands of his captors death every day began to question the meaning of his own existence and the meaning of life in general. Frankl eventually came to the conclusion that people derive meaning from their lives as either as result of their suffering, their ability to love another, and their work (Frankl, 1985). A person's work helps them to define a sense of themselves, contributes to their feeling that they are useful, and helps to keep them active (Frankl, 1985; Shacklock, 2006; Waddell & Burton, 2006). These benefits occur at any age; therefore, by continuing to remain in the workforce elderly people can both produce benefits to their community and receive benefits beyond mere income from their employment. Conclusions based on empirical evidence by esteemed research centers such as the Department of Geriatric Medicine at Hebrew University and the Centre for Psychosocial Research, Cardiff University have stated that continued mental and the physical involvement by continuing to work in later life has numerous benefits including longer life expectancies for the elderly as well as benefits for society in general (e.g., Waddell & Burton, 2006). Moreover, life expectancies are longer now than ever before. Thus, there have been movements on both a national and on regional levels to investigate the benefits of encouraging elderly individuals to remain in the workforce past traditionally defined retirement ages (e.g., 65 years-of-age; Waddell & Burton, 2006).
The projections for the rise in the elderly population of Little Whinging Queensland Australia predict that nearly 20% of the population will be over the age of 65 by the year 2030 and this percentage may increase to 25% of the population by the year 2050. Mayor McGonagall has recognized the importance of keeping this proportion of the population healthy and productive and has requested information regarding the factors that can keep older adults in the workforce and healthy as well as the feasibility of designing an intervention program to assist in this goal. This proposal will discuss the benefits and factors that can help keep older adults in the workforce and will make recommendations as to how to implement practical interventions that will assist to keep the elderly population active and productive.
A brief discussion of the empirical evidence regarding the benefits of remaining active and working in the later stages of life is of assistance to identify practical interventions that can help design effective interventions aimed at promoting continued work.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Keeping Older Employees in the Workforce
Continued to physical activity in one's later years has been linked to a number of health benefits including increased longevity (Waddell & Burton, 2006), less declines in cardiovascular and pulmonary functioning (National Heart Foundation of Australia, 2006), a reduced risk of developing conditions like diabetes and osteoporosis (Nied & Franklin, 2002), decreases in mental health issues like depression (Watt & Cappeliez, (2000), reduced age-associated declines in cognition (Rohwedder & Willis, 2010), and better overall life satisfaction (Davis & Friedrich, 2004).
From an employer's incentive there are numerous advantages to retaining older workers that include older workers being more dedicated, punctual, honest, very detail oriented, having more pride in their work than their younger counterparts, often having better organizational skills, having more experience with how to handle issues in the workforce, and having better communication skills (Center for Disease Control [CDC], 2012). Of course from a societal perspective keeping people in the workforce as they age include reduced costs related to the poorer health and increased mental illnesses in elderly people not in the workforce (Shea & Haasen, 2006), continued taxation benefits, potential reduced labor costs (Shea & Haasen, 2006), and less outlay of government benefits and more production from the citizens (CDC, 2012).
Disadvantages to having elderly people in the workforce include a reduced number of positions/opportunities that elderly workers can fill compared to those for younger workers (Special Committee on Aging, 2008), a tendency for decreased participation in training activities by older workers (Shea & Haasen, 2006), increased potential health issues in elderly workers that can lead to higher rates of absenteeism (CDC, 2012), and missed time due to having to care for sick relatives (Commission on Aging, 2008).
In order to develop interventions to assist older workers to remain in the workforce it is important to briefly discuss the empirical evidence regarding the major reasons that individuals retire.
Major Factors That Contribute to the Decision to Retire
There are several factors that are important influences in an older worker's decision to retire. According to recent reviews of the retirement literature a person's health significantly affects their decision to remain in the workforce (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006). This includes potential health problems of the worker as well health issues of the person's partner. The second important factor that influences a person's decision to retire is their financial situation (Jackson, Walter, Felmingham, & Spinaze, 2006). Individuals perceiving that their financial situation as being optimistic in the future without the income received from working are obviously more likely to retire than those that do not. The third major factor that influences a person's decision to retire is the person's attachment to work or the person's desire to continue working (Patrickson & Ranzijn, 2004). Positive views about work can encourage older people to continue to work in their later years, whereas dissatisfaction with career attainment and a reduced commitment to the job can influence the worker's decision to retire. Interestingly, the opportunity to interact with others in the workplace has been also found to be very attractive incentive to retain older workers and retired workers report they miss the relationships they had while working (Shacklock, 2006). In addition, an older worker's perception of their decision-making role in the workplace and having flexible work arrangements when needed has been found to be an important influence on their decision to retire such that individuals who believe they have more autonomy to make decisions and/or have the ability to be flexible in their work schedules and the balance them with other interests such as taking care of a partner are less likely to retire (Phillipson & Smith, 2005). Other factors such as the number of outside interests a person has, their perception of the management in their work environment, their desire to remain in the current domicile or region, etc. also influence the decision to retire (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006). Factors such as the individual's financial situation, their desire to live somewhere else, their outside interests, etc. cannot easily be the sources of interventions aimed at keeping elderly workers in the workforce. However, programs to increase and improve the health of elderly people and actions by companies to improve working conditions in such a manner that a work environment will remain attractive to the older worker can be initiated.
As it is clear that the workforce is rapidly aging and that there are specific issues involved in maintaining older workers in the workforce. Little Whinging can be proactive in ensuring that older workers are more likely to remain in the workforce until they choose to retire. Three specific recommendations follow.
Increasing the Health and Physical Well-Being of Older Workers
Given that the major reason that older workers choose to retire is related to their health or the health of their partner it is important that Little Whinging Institute a community program that specifically addresses these issues for working older adults. Such a program should be based on empirically validated evidence that has demonstrated success with older workers.
Hughes, Seymour, Campbell, Shaw, Fabiyi, and Sokas (2011) examined the effectiveness of two worksite health interventions in a randomized controlled trial with workers over the age of 40. The COACH program used a combination of internet-based assessments and in-person interventions (with medical personal, social workers, exercise coaches, etc.) to help the workers reach their fitness/health goals. The RealAge program is an internet-based program designed to get workers to live healthier well styles. The control group in this study simply received printed materials on healthy choices. The results at six and nine-month follow-ups indicated that the COACH group was twice as likely to continue to participate in the program than the other groups and had twice as many positive outcomes as the control group. In addition, participants in the COACH program showed significantly increased fruit and vegetable consumption and increased participation in physical activities. The researchers concluded that the COACH program, which can be implemented at a person's place of employment as well as privately, was a solid health -- promotion program that can be useful in increasing and maintaining the health of older workers.
Little Whinging can offer incentives to employers to get their employees involved in the COACH program and can also offer incentives for employers to develop exercise…