Sustainable work ability- healthy retirement?


Clas-Hakan Nygard




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Research on work-related aging (occupational gerontology), focuses on the adaption of middle-aged and older workers to employment and their transition to retirement, and takes in to account that different ages have their own specific needs. It is about balancing work demands with individual capacities throughout the working life, especially from midlife on, in to retirement and old age.

Work ability is primarily a question of a balance between work and personal resources. Personal resources change with age whereas work demands may not change parallel to that, or only change due to globalization or new technology.

Functional abilities (capacity) change with increasing age, physical abilities decrease faster than psychosocial abilities. Work ability decreases with age, but not always linearly. Several different trajectories (pathways) exists from midlife to old age. Work ability of the majority of people decreases linearly but both sudden decreases and increases are possible. Work demands at midlife very much predict further work disability, health, functions and even mortality. Factors related to both ergonomics and general lifestyles explain the declines and improvements in work ability during aging.

People with higher occupational classes are more likely to have a good work ability and also continue working beyond the pensionable age compared to those with lower occupational classes. This is explained by a physically lighter job, better work time control and better self-rated working capacity. Work ability and work life satisfaction are important contributors to retirement intentions of employees.

Although longitudinal studies already show a significant association between work ability and health during retirement, there is a lack of reliable and feasible interventions to show what is important in promoting work ability during working life.

Clas-Häkan Nygárd from Tampere University, Finland

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