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Workplace RERC

State of the Science Conference
September 15-16, 2005

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Supporting older workers at work: A conceptual framework

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Slides Index Slides 1-14 Slides 15-27 Slides 28-40 Slides 41-50

Slides On This Page

  1. Defining Productive Work
  2. Productive Work Defined
  3. Functional Ability Classified by the ICF
  4. Functional Ability
  5. Conclusions
  6. Conclusions
  7. Conclusions
  8. "Age is a high price to pay for maturity."
  9. Future Research
  10. Contact Information

Slide 41 of 50

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).

Slide 42 of 50

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(Gillin et al, 2004 unpublished)

Slide 43 of 50

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 age 70.

Slide 44 of 50

Functional Ability

  • 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 workforce
  • The current practice of determining retirement on the basis of chronological age fails to take into account functional ability and acquired skill

  • Slide 45 of 50



    Slide 46 of 50


  • 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.

  • Slide 47 of 50


    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.

    Slide 48 of 50

    “Age is a high price to pay for maturity.”

    (Stoppard, 1962)

    Image of older man lifting weights.
    (Pictures courtesy of NIH

    Slide 49 of 50

    Future Research

  • Resource planning and ambivalence
  • Organizational change in an aging workforce
  • Universalism
  • Prolonging the threshold of productive work

  • Slide 50 of 50

    Contact Information

  • 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.

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