By Brent I. Clark and Craig B. Simonsen

iStock_000059644066_DoubleThe National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recently launched its National Center for Productive Aging and Work (Center).

The new “virtual center,” will focus on worker safety at all ages, promoting lifelong well-being, and will advance the concept of “productive aging.” The NIOSH news release about the Center indicates that today one in every five American workers is over 65. “In 2020 one in four American workers will be over the age of 55, many of them with no intention to retire anytime soon.”

The stated mission of the Center is to:

  • Develop a research plan for improving the safety and health of workers of all ages;
  • Facilitate collaboration among researchers and partners;
  • Develop new interventions; and
  • Highlight best practices for creating “aging-friendly” workplaces.

Additionally, the Center will work with NIOSH to draft “national policies” related to the concept of “aging-friendly” work. The Center will also work to advance the concept of “productive aging” — that is “providing a safe and healthy work environment for all workers, and creating conditions that allow workers to function optimally and thrive from their first day on any job until the last day before full retirement.”

The Center provides links and information to assist employers in meeting this need. For instance, the Designing the Age Friendly Workplace reference is a website that provides “practical tools, insightful videos, and digital stories for helping organizations take action in preparing for the aging workforce.” Particularly the healthcare and the wholesale/retail areas on this site provides informative sections on “Fall Prevention,” “Patient Handling,” and “Universal Design.”

Another example of Center links and information is the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. The site provides President Obama’s address, a video timeline of the conference, information about regional forums, and policy briefs.

The Center is a new resource that employers may find useful in planning for and reacting to having an older workforce. The Center will also provide insight into how NIOSH and OSHA may view workplace safety and health issues that concern “older” workers.