1: Ageing and work

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Ageing and work

What do I need to know about ageing?

Different aspects of ageing

Ageing is a complex and continuous process that begins with birth and ends with death. It is a multi-dimensional process of biological, psychological and social changes. The age of a person is normally defined in years and months ( chronological age), but there are also other aspects to age:

A person who is 57 years old according to his or her chronological age, may feel like a 50 year old ( psychological age), be fit like a 45 year old ( functional age) and behave like a 40 year old ( social age).

Changes that occur with ageing

People change as they get older. Attributes such as wisdom, strategic thinking and the ability to deliberate, either increase or first emerge with age. Work experience and expertise also accumulate with age. On the other hand, some functional capacities (mainly physical and sensory), decline as a result of the natural ageing process.

Age-related changes in functional capacities are not uniform because they are affected by various factors, such as:

  • Environmental exposures, including workplace exposures;
  • Genetic predisposition to illness;
  • Lifestyle (nutrition, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol);
  • Educational level and socioeconomic status; and
  • Gender.

This means that there can be considerable differences in functional capacities between individuals with the same chronological age.

Age-related changes and their relevance for work

As part of the ageing process, changes in functional capacity occur (such as a reduction in muscle strength, changes in vision or thinning of the skin), which may impact work.

The next theme provides further information about age-related changes and their implications for work. Here you will also find an overview of control measures that can be implemented to eliminate or minimise risks for older workers, as well as examples of practices that can help organisations to address age-related changes at the workplace.