Ergonomics, “the study of work” has gain increased importance over the last few years with the graying of the American work force. Since the 1960’s the growth of the U.S. population aged 65 and over has more than doubled. The increased focus on the aging work force has resulted from employers’ desire to maintain highly experienced employees and to reduce their risk to injuries at work.
One of the first steps to understanding proper ergonomic interventions for the older worker is to understand the physiological changes that accompany aging. An excellent article summarizing these changes can be found in the publication, The Aging Workforce by Lance Perry, CSP (2010, Professional Safety).
Reduction in strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, coordination and cognitive functions occur with age but with a high degree of variability in terms of severity and their impact on function and work capacities. After age 65, there is a significant increase of risk from falls. In subsequent issues we will address fall prevention as well as other ergonomic interventions to improve safety in the workplace for both older and younger workers.
(Note: Dr. Richard Bunch, CEO of WorkSaver lectures each year at the National Ergonomics and Exposition Conference on the topic of aging and ergonomics.)