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Ergonomics & The Aging Workforce

Shifting demographics are challenging workplace conditions. According to Workrite Ergonomics, an industry leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of innovative ergonomic office furniture and accessories, by 2020, 25 percent of the workforce will be age 55 and older and 17 percent will be 65 and older. Seventy-nine percent of Baby Boomers say they don’t plan to fully retire at age 65. While some want to explore second careers and new opportunities, others say their reasons for postponing retirement include the state of the economy and high cost of living, health-care expenses, or not having enough savings.

The characteristics of aging workers put them at higher risk of MSDs and sick days. These seniors may fatigue faster, have decreased visual acuity, balance and dexterity. They may be more susceptible to extremes of temperature. For them, frequent breaks, varying tasks, solid supportive chairs and proper lighting are absolutely essential. Because these older colleagues offer maturity, experience and depth of knowledge, the value of their contributions make it worthwhile for companies to provide an environment to accommodate them.

Workplace Exercises

Changing position periodically or standing up, walking over to a colleague to ask that question or walking to the break room for a glass of water can help reduce fatigue, and improve concentration and productivity. Here are some ergonomic exercises that can be done right at one’s desk from Workrite Ergonomics:

Shoulder Stretch. With hands in front of body, interlace fingers and turn palms away from body. Gently straighten elbows and reach. Hold stretch for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat at least twice.

Neck Tilts.
Place arms behind your back, grasp one wrist with opposite hand and pull while tilting head away from the arm you are stretching. Hold for eight to 10 seconds. Reverse arms and repeat.

Back and Hip Stretch.
Cross left leg over right leg. Keeping shoulders square with the front of your body, look over left shoulder. Place right hand on left knee and apply pressure. Hold for eight to 10 seconds. Repeat on other side.

Hand, Wrist and Forearm Relaxation. Let arms hang loose at your sides. Shake hands and arms for 30 seconds to release tension.

Hold “walking” meetings. Use half of  your lunchtime to go for a walk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Ride your bike to work instead of driving.

The 20-20-20 Rule

Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second rest break and look at something 20 or more feet away from your computer screen.


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