Aging and MSD: Strategies for older workers

The global population is aging with a projection that one in five people will be over the age of 60 by 2050. The Canadian population aged 65 and over is expected to double over the next 25 years. The Canadian workforce is also aging with a large proportion of workers (42.4%) in the 45 to 64 age group in 2011 and the average age of labor market participant predicted to continue to rise until 20314. However, it appears that very few Canadian companies have addressed the impact of an aging workforce on occupational health.
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are a burden to all industrial sectors. They present with pain and symptoms such as numbness and tingling. These symptoms may be warning signs of current or impending MSD, such as peripheral nerve entrapments, peripheral enthesopathies, and many other non-specific musculoskeletal pain disorders such as low back pain. There are concerns that MSD maybe more prevalent and costly among older workers, although the evidence supporting these concerns is not consistent. However, it would seem prudent for workplaces to consider strategies for healthy aging to address an aging workforce regardless.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released their World Report on Ageing and Health which defines healthy aging as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age”6. The WHO report provides a framework for healthy aging. As part of the framework there are proposed strategies for creating age friendly environments that we propose can be adapted and applied to workplaces. The strategies include: i) combating ageism; ii) enabling autonomy, and iii) supporting healthy aging in policy. We suggest that these strategies are valuable for workplaces and by extension MSD and show some supporting research for each of them below.
As part of a scoping review of the literature we present some recent research addressing the WHO strategies and how they may apply to workplaces. We also drew on recent searches for larger ongoing systematic reviews carried out by a team of Institute for Work & Health researchers as part of the prevention review program, including: aging and return to work, return to work and upper extremity MSD prevention. Overall, we note that there is a lack of literature evaluating interventions or strategies related to older workers and MSD.

Source: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-of-research-expertise-for-the-prevention-of-musculoskeletal-disorders/resources/position-papers/aging-and-msd-strategies-older-workers

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