An analysis of federal statistics completed by the Associated Press indicates older people are dying on the job at a higher rate than that of the overall workforce. This is despite a decrease in the overall rate of workplace fatalities occurring.
It's a fact that people are living longer. Longevity creates the need for them to continue working at an older age for a multitude of reasons. It could be due to inadequate savings for retirement, the need to continue their health insurance benefits, or simply to hold on to the sense of job satisfaction and the stimulation and social contact that working provides.
So, as more and more baby boomers reject the idea of traditionally retiring by age 65 and instead keep working, it's a trend that is particularly alarming given the statistics. The U.S. government estimates that by 2024, as much as 25% of the labor market will be older workers.
Epidemiologist Ken Scott of the Denver Public Health Department says that the physical changes associated with aging have the potential to turn a workplace injury into a much more severe condition, possibly even a fatal one.
"We expect that there will be more older workers increasing each year and this issue of elevated risk is something we should be paying close attention to," he said.
Older workers are at increased Risk
The Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibit workplace discrimination based on age or disability. However, retaining qualified older workers with experience can outweigh the limitations that could come from their advanced age.
Keeping older works safe, despite their age limitations, is essential for both employers and employees.
According to Gerontologists (professionals who study the aging process), changes that occur when aging that could affect safety at work include reduced response times, gradually worsening hearing and vision impairment, issues with balance and coordination, and chronic medical issues such as muscle or bones problems like arthritis.
Workplace accidents of workers aged 55 and older that resulted in death increased by 8% in 2019. Alarmingly, this is the largest number of fatalities ever recorded for this age group.
In California alone, the rate of fatal accidents involving older employees in 2019 was 3.4 per 100,000 workers - a figure 60% higher than that of all workers.
Workplace Death Overall are Down – Older Workers the Exception
The Associated Press analysis showed the overall fatality rate for all workplace accidents - including workers 55 and older - decreased by 22% from 2006 to 2015. Nevertheless, the rate of workplace accident fatalities among older workers during the same time period was 50-65% higher than that of the general workforce (depending upon the year).
For example, according to the analysis, the number of fatalities across all workers in 2015 was 4,836, down from 5,480 in 2005. In contrast, on-the-job deaths among older workers slightly increased from 1,562 to 1,681, respectively.
The number of older people within the workforce also increased by 37% during that time period, compared with a rise of just 6% of the overall worker population.
This AP analysis was based upon annual estimates from the American Community Survey (which focuses on the working population) and data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census for Fatal Occupational Injuries. The data excludes any case where the cause of death was due to natural causes like a stroke or heart attack.
It also examined the statistics regarding the types of accidents in which older members of the workforce died between 2011, the year the bureau altered its accident categorization, to 2015. They found several things in the data:
- Transportation accidents increased by 15%
- Fatalities related to falls increased by 20%
- Explosions and fires dropped by 8%
- Contact with equipment and objects rose by 17%
The analysis reported that approximately 1 in 4 workplace fatalities related to fires and explosions between 2011 and 2015 were older workers.
Older Workers Report Physical Work Requirements are Challenging
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research published a poll that found that in 2013, 44% of older Americans reported that their job required some physical effort, either all or most of the time. 36% also said that it was harder to achieve their employment's physical requirements than it had been when they were younger.
The push for safety changes
The National Center for Productive Aging and Work is a relatively new organization that is part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It is acutely aware of the need to address this growing concern and is pushing for changes to workplace laws to ensure that it is safer for older workers.
Some suggested changes include mandatory increases in lighting to assist older workers who suffer from age-related weakened eyesight. Recommendations also include additional training and retraining where necessary.
Co-director for the Center, James Grosch, says, "We advocate to make workplaces as age-friendly as possible."
He said that the Center is prioritizing productive aging - how older people can be more effective so their wisdom can be leveraged in the workplace, according to Grosch.
Older Works are Usually Safer
Older workers are typically safer workers in that they bring more wisdom and experience to the job and are less likely to engage in risky workplace behaviors. Nevertheless, the statistics speak for themselves and send a clear message that workplaces need to be made safer for older employees. The significant increase in the numbers of older workers continues to rise, so the problem will only be greater in the years ahead.
Failure to take action for workplace safety for older workers will increase personal injury and wrongful death suits. Families will want to make sure their loved ones have access to the level of safety that they are entitled to in the workplace.
Health Care for Older Workers
Chronic Conditions and Aging Arthritis and hypertension are the two most common health conditions affecting older workers (aged 55+), according to the CDC, impacting 47% and 44%, respectfully. More than 75% of older people have at least one chronic health condition that requires management.
The number of health issues for older workers has implications for how and when workers can physically perform their duties. The CDC says higher morbidity can mean more absenteeism. Others don't feel well but show up to work regardless.
All of us experience changes in our health as we get older. We see changes in our bodies as well. Preparing for these changes is something everyone can benefit from as the country grows older every year.
You probably first noticed changes in your body by the time you were age 30. As we get older, we experience many changes in health, body, and mind. There are even changes in our mental health like depression and anxiety.
The result leads to needing help with daily activities we take for granted today. We can't avoid aging - aging happens. The costs of long-term health care have many consequences on our family and finances.
Preparing your family and finances for the future costs and burdens of aging is an essential part of retirement planning. But Long-Term Care Insurance is more than just about money.
Yes, long-term health care is a significant cash flow issue. LTC Insurance addresses this problem. But, long-term care is also a family issue. Without any plan in place, the family will go into crisis mode. The result can be a disaster for you and your family, and your wishes may take a back seat.
You Must Health Qualify to Obtain Coverage
You cannot wait until you need you experience significant health problems. Often, it is too late to do any planning.
The underwriting criteria are different with each company. You will have to answer some health questions even to obtain accurate quotes. You ideally want to get coverage when you enjoy reasonably good health. If you are already receiving care in your home or if you live in a care facility, you would be ineligible for coverage.
Seek Help of a Qualified LTC Specialist
A Long-Term Care specialist can help you determine your eligibility based on your health history and other factors. Most financial planners and general insurance agents are not knowledgeable about underwriting, features, benefits, federal/state partnership programs, policy design, and claims.
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