Healthier Baby Boomers, Happier Employers

The Baby Boomers are ageing, but continuing to make an impact. Reports show that older employees currently make up one-third of the workforce, and many of them are continuing to work past the legal retirement age. By 2016, employees aged 65 and over are expected to account for over 6 percent of the total labor force. Baby Boomers offer employers a wealth of skills, including loyalty, expertise, and an excellent work ethic. HR professionals can help older employees with the many health concerns they face as they age, by adding necessary initiatives to their wellness program.

Benefits of older employees

Baby Boomers possess great qualities that make them ideal employees. Research shows that many workers in this generation possess great work ethic, customer service skills, motivation, and loyalty. Employers can rely on Baby Boomers’ expertise in their subject matter, and their willingness to work hard and get the job done. Many of them make great leaders because of their experience and commitment to the organisation. AARP studies also show that employees over 50 are more likely than their counterparts to demonstrate consistent dependability, perseverance, and focus. Many of these employees will remain loyal, and stick with their employer through the ups and downs of business.

Health challenges of an older workforce

Baby Boomers face many health challenges as they age. Some of these concerns include musculoskeletal problems, vision and hearing loss, decreased immunity, skin problems, depression, memory loss, and chronic disease (i.e. arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease).

Employers can help these employees manage their health by encouraging healthy behaviours, and providing them with essential health screenings. Employers will not only improve the health and productivity of their employees, but they will also reduce company costs significantly.

Injuries are another major challenge for older workers and their employers. As people age, muscle strength and flexibility decreases, and risk of injury increases. According to the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses of 2004, median days away from work as a result of an injury increases with age. This is very common since the body needs more time to heal as it ages. Proactivity in work safety will decrease possible claims and injury.

Healthier employees, better productivity

HR professionals can implement several wellness initiatives to promote healthier lifestyles for our older employees. Below are some examples that target the specific challenges Baby Boomers face:
Implement nutrition initiatives targeting chronic diseases – Provide employees with nutrition coaching that addresses concerns for chronic diseases like osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Implement exercise initiatives targeting decreased body and mind functions – Incorporate classes like yoga, strength training, balance exercises, and walking. Classes and activities that improve memory and decrease stress are also great additions.
Design workplace safety initiatives – Implement safety programs targeting muscle strain and balance loss. This will help avoid common workplace injuries like sprains, falls, and back injuries.
Empower older employees with learning initiatives – Encourage your staff to develop their skills and learn new ones that will help them become more efficient in their current jobs. Although cognitive skills do decline with age, the best way to avoid major deterioration is to provide new skills and processes.

The bottom line

The world’s workforce demographic is changing. Our future staff will include older employees as a sizable, capable group. Assisting this group with the proper tools for a healthier lifestyle can truly maximise the skills and expertise they provide their employers. Taking steps to incorporate nutrition, exercise, safety, and development will provide Baby Boomers wellness, and the continued career contribution they crave.

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