Ours is a world wherein efficiency and minimization of errors is a necessity. Ours is also a world wherein there are an increasing number of older people within the working population, more so in the future. According to the current demographic trends by the year 2030 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004) approximately 42% of the US population would be greater than 45 yrs old in age.

Aim of the Paper

This paper aims to address two main areas

  • The physical and cognitive changes occurring as a result of increasing age potentially leading to a loss of efficiency or incremental increase in error rate.

  • Designing for an aging work force, may aid productivity and safety.

Who Are Older Workers?

For the purpose of this paper older workers are defined as the members of the working population who are 55 yrs and older. However, this paper also addresses those 45 and older for various illustrations and comparison. This number is chosen as a benchmark for research purposes only and by no means should it be used to suggest anything else.

What Is Aging and How Would It Affect the Future of the U.S. Workforce?

Simply defined, aging is an increase of calendar age. Statisticians may also think in terms of the Gompertz curve (Kenny and Keeping, 1962), which relates aging to an increased probability of death. According to occupational physicians aging has more to do with a progressive deterioration in physiological and mental function and an accumulating burden of chronic ill health.

Logically it might appear that these conditions will threaten a worker's capacity for gainful employment. However, calendar age offers an unsatisfactory index of the productive potential of the individual employee. To ensure that there is an unbiased and fair comparison, it is necessary that biological age is involved, for example a well conditioned 45 year old may be in better physical health than a poorly endowed 25 year old.

The US Census reports that the percentage of older workers within the working population is projected to rise from 12.9% in 2000 to 16.3% (13.3% for age group 55–64 and 3% for age group 65+ years) in 2008. Further projections reveal that this number would stand at 19.6% in 2015 and 20.1% in 2025. If this percentage value is translated into numbers then it amounts to 18.2 million in 2000, 25.2 million in 2008, and 31.9 million in 2025. This represents a 38% increase over the next decade and a 75% increase over the next 25 years.

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