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State of the Science Conference
September 15-16, 2005
Supporting older workers at work: A conceptual framework
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- Defining Productive Work
- Productive Work Defined
- Functional Ability Classified by the ICF
- Functional Ability
- "Age is a high price to pay for maturity."
- Future Research
- Contact Information
Age Stratification Theory
Graphic: Activities take place along a two-axis system: time and safe productive
work. Over time, Tasks 1-3 lead to Outcomes Measures, which lead to Success and
Quality Product (higher on the safe productive work scale) and Failure and Substandard
Product (lower on the productive work scale).
Productive Work Defined
Productive work is the accomplishment of a task or tasks that safely produces
quality products within expected temporal limits and societal acceptance of the
level of production expected. The measurement of this work is task specific and
unique to the outcome measures chosen.
(Gillin et al, 2004 unpublished)
Functional Ability Classified by the ICF
A line graph, adapted from (Savinainen et al., 2004; Yates, 2002) shows percent
functional ability on the left vertical axis, percent resources on the right
vertical axis, and age on the horizontal axis. For younger workers, age 30,
functional ability and resources are both shown as about 100%. As the person
ages, a wedge showing typical aging shows a range of about 10% to 75% for both
functional ability and resources by age 70. However, another line shows accommodated
aging only dropping down to about 90% for functional ability and resources by
Some individuals show little change in functional ability until very
late in life while others demonstrate marked impairment in middle age (Liang,
Shaw et al., 2003)
The ramifications of an employee’s functional abilities declining
over time will become significant for employers faced with an increasingly older
The current practice of determining retirement on the basis of chronological
age fails to take into account functional ability and acquired skill
Unenlightened employers and employees can create a social environment
that is incompatible with the abilities of older employees. (McMullin, 2002)
Functional abilities have not been found to be a major restriction in
older employees (Ishibashi, 1998; Muchmore, Lynch et al., 2003; Mulvey, 2003;
Yates, 2002, Gall and Parkhouse, 2004; Parkhouse and Gall, 2004).
Improving safety on and off the job and focusing on decreasing ambivalence
in workers’ lives by increasing resources creates the potential for increased
employee longevity and safer, stable workplaces in the future.
We need to research ambivalence and sociological barriers within employment classes
if advances are to be made in the area of aging and productive work. Particular
attention must be focused on increasing resources that create situations of employability.
“Age is a high price to pay for maturity.”
Image of older man lifting weights.
(Pictures courtesy of NIH www.healthandage.com)
Resource planning and ambivalence
Organizational change in an aging workforce
Prolonging the threshold of productive work
Kent Gillin is a Doctoral Candidate in the Rehabilitation Sciences program
at University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.
Kent specializes in aging, accommodation and functional assessment intervention
enabling universal access for all abilities.