An unanticipated side effect of the current economic climate is the changing demographic in the workplace. Long time employees are staying on the job and retiring later than did their predecessors, uncertainty about the future coupled with the fact that Social Security benefits that are not fully payable until age 66. More than one retiree has stayed in the workplace several years past a planned retirement date to hedge against shaky company pension funds.
But what of the younger worker, commonly referred to as Gen X? Clearly, as fewer workers are choosing retirement, correspondingly fewer younger workers are being hired. This change has greatly affected the demographics of the work place leading to a general graying of employees. The factors are far reaching, not the least of which is an impact upon corporate health and wellness care benefits. A shift from an emphasis upon health care for middle aged workers–traditionally a low risk group to insure– to the needs of workers previously considered “retirement age” has affected the amount of coverage employers are able to offer as well as the premium price tag employees and employers alike must pay due to higher risk factors associated with aging.
In spite of the fact that today’s “baby boomer” is more likely to eat healthily, exercise regularly, and less likely to smoke, there are health factors associated with aging such as high blood pressure and increased cardiac issues. Add to these the stress factor associated with the uncertain economy and the potential for strain upon the health care system is undeniable. Consider the strain upon the already thin company profit margin and the stress cycle begins anew.
It is time that employers recognize that the corporate health and wellness programs they provide must address the needs of the older worker. The risk for sudden cardiac arrest during exercise is twenty times as high as when at rest. Employers would be well advised to put into practice preventive programs as well as to equip all their workers with the skills necessary to address sudden cardiac arrest such as CPR training and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Unit deployment. The odds are that the longer a person lives and works, the greater the chance a cardiac event will be witnessed. The burden does not rest solely upon the employer, however. It is incumbent upon the older worker to make appropriate life style changes if needed as well as to become informed about interventions that may be necessary. This dual responsibility awareness forges the best possible work partnership, a situation where each is working with the other for mutual benefit.