Overcoming Age-Related Challenges
This is the first time in history that four generations are working together side-by-side, as opposed to hierarchically. While this makes for a happily diverse workplace, each generation's workers bring with them their own set of attributes and challenges. For the baby boomer generation, these challenges may be surprising and frustrating.
Born between 1946 and 1964, baby boomers are loyal and dedicated employees. For many, they live to work and their job is their identity. Baby boomers respect teamwork and believe that advancement is based on achievement and loyalty. It's these attributes that make baby boomer employees very attractive to employers.
Unfortunately, there's no fighting age and a baby boomer, once fast and resilient, may now:
- Be hard of hearing
- Have failing eyesight
- Take twice as long to recover from an injury
- Be resistant to change
Also, many baby boomers rely on their experience and expertise to do their jobs. While these employees tend to be more accurate in their work than their younger counterparts, they now find that they struggle with complex instructions or assignments where multitasking is required.
THE FIVE SKILL AREAS
Another attribute of baby boomers is that they don't give up easily. So if you're looking for ways to compensate for age-related challenges, there are some things you can do.
Robert Pater, managing director of Strategic Safety Associates/MoveSmart of Portland, OR, says workers of any age can be taught skills to keep them healthier and less prone to injury on the job. These five skills can be enhanced to promote safety and health within an aging workforce:
Slips, trips and falls can result from being off balance. According to Pater, balance problems can be addressed by practicing and maintaining the natural alignments of shoulders, hips, neck, ankles, knees and spine. You can also practice dynamic relaxation by using the least amount of muscle tension to accomplish desired tasks.
Reduced range of motion and slower reaction times can lead to sprains, strains and falls. To improve your range of motion, look at where you want to move before actually moving. You can also improve agility by enhanced breathing through yoga.
Reduced energy levels can result in all sorts of mishaps and injuries at work and at home. Pater says stress, cumulative muscle tension and sleep deprivation are the culprits. So he advises older workers to:
- Improve their posture and breathing
- Get better sleep
- Don't worry so much
- Pace themselves at work
When people are unfocused, anything can happen. They can trip over stuff, get hit by moving equipment or cause motor vehicle accidents. But older (and younger) workers can sharpen their focus by varying their tasks, exercising regularly and stimulating the brain by playing games and solving puzzles.
With age comes gradual muscle loss and reduced strength. This can lead to injury incidents at work. As a solution, Pater advises baby boomers to build up their strength through exercise, and to use weight-shifting methods to enhance their ability to lift and carry.
Baby boomers bring a lot of experience to the worktable regardless of the challenges they face. By recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, and making the effort to improve the five skills, your age-related challenges won't seem insurmountable after all.
10 TIPS FOR BABY BOOMERS
- Avoid repetitive tasks and prolonged standing.
- Take routine breaks during long driving trips.
- Use mechanical devices to lift heavy or awkward materials.
- Lift objects from waist level, and never twist or bend while lifting.
- Have vision and hearing tested regularly.
- Keep one hand on the handrail when traversing stairs.
- Consult your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of medication.
- Keep footwear snug-fitting with slip-resistant soles.
- Re-design your workstation to limit exposure to back pain risk factors.
- Rotate or change your job duties to avoid cumulative strain injuries.