In Brief

  • The number and proportion of older workers is increasing. Objectively assessing the magnitude of this increase and the implications to occupational safety is crucial to effective responses by ergonomists and OSH professionals.

  • Most age-related performance declines are not work- or injury-relevant.

  • Injuries to workers age 65 and older have favorable rates and costs compared to most other age ranges.

  • Relevant concerns for workers age 65 and older include same-level falls and fatal vehicle crashes.

The graying of the workforce in the U.S. and in other developed countries is a well-recognized fact. People are living longer and electing to stay in the workforce beyond the typical retirement age. In 2010, persons age 55 and older made up nearly 20% of the entire U.S. workforce. In the European Union, nearly one-quarter of the workforce is age 50 or older (Vendra & Valenduc, 2012). In the U.S., more than 13% of those age 65 and older are still working in some capacity. The U.S. General Accounting Office (2001) estimates that by the year 2015 the proportion of workers over age 55 will have nearly doubled since 1990.

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