Beyond the 10 000 steps: Managing less visible aspects of healthy ageing at work

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Business School

Abstract

Working with employers, employees, professional bodies and other key stakeholders this project will co-design innovative workplace interventions to support the health and well-being of older workers (aged 50+), enabling them to stay in paid work for longer and increasing their overall well-being.

Context: There is an urgent need to make the health of older workers more visible. One in three workers in the UK are aged 50+, and this figure is set to rise in coming decades. 44% of people aged 50-64 have a long- term health condition, and 21% of older workers who leave the labour market 'early' (before State Pension Age) cite health problems as the primary reason for leaving. New research is urgently needed to identify the most appropriate actions employers can take to prevent health conditions from developing in their older workforce, and to support older employees who have existing health problems. It is important to fill these gaps in our understanding because, with the right workplace supports in place, older people are more likely to be able to extend their working lives even if they experience long-term health issues. This urgency has been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic as both older workers and their employers reassess health needs and risks associated with older age, and consider alternative forms of working.

We know that the nature and quality of people's work influences their health and that, conversely, people's state of health influences their ability to work. What is less well-understood is how the relationship between work and health changes over time as people grow older. The experiences and needs of older workers have tended to be overlooked in previous research about work and health. When older workers have been considered, not enough attention has been paid to inequalities between different groups. We know little about how older workers' health and well-being is influenced by factors such as gender, ethnicity, social class, occupation, type of employment, and unpaid caring roles. Moreover, some aspects of health and wellbeing that particularly affect older workers, such as menopause, dementia, and financial stability, are especially hidden.

Aim and objectives: Building upon existing research, this project will work with employers, older workers (including self-employed) and a range of stakeholders to deepen understanding of the ways in which physical, mental and financial well-being interact with workplace culture and supports to constrain or enable opportunities for productive later-life employment. These findings will be used to co-design a suite of innovative products and data-driven interventions to improve the health, well-being and financial stability of older workers. Our co-designed outputs will provide businesses and social enterprises with fit-for-purpose and scalable products, services and business models, which support people as they age.

Potential application and benefits: The potential impact will be significant - encouraging increased industry investment in healthy ageing at work so that people can remain active, productive, independent and socially connected across generations for as long as possible, thereby contributing to the Healthy Ageing Challenge mission of ensuring that 'people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035', whilst also supporting the UK policy goal of extending working life beyond traditional retirement ages. Better support for older workers will allow employers to retain experienced staff and avoid the costs of replacing them. The translation and adoption of interventions within the workplace will help to increase productivity, build resilience and sustainability within the ageing workforce, and create new market opportunities to promote economic growth.

Publications

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